North Korea flaunts long-range missiles at founder's birthday parade
North Korea paraded its intercontinental ballistic missiles in a massive military display in central Pyongyang on Saturday, with ruler Kim Jong Un looking on with delight as his nation flaunted its increasingly sophisticated military hardware amid rising regional tensions.
Kim did not speak during the annual parade, which celebrates the 1912 birthday of his late grandfather Kim Il Sung, North Korea's founding ruler, but a top official warned that the North would stand up to any threat posed by the United States.
Choe Ryong Hae said President Donald Trump was guilty of "creating a war situation" on the Korean Peninsula by dispatching US forces to the region.
"We will respond to an all-out war with an all-out war and a nuclear war with our style of a nuclear attack," said Choe, widely seen by analysts as North Korea's number two official.
The parade, the annual highlight of North Korea's most important holiday, came amid growing international worries that North Korea may be preparing for its sixth nuclear test or a major missile launch, such as its first flight test of an ICBM capable of reaching US shores.
But if the parade signalled a readiness for war, North Korea has long insisted that its goal is peace - and survival - with the growing arsenal a way to ensure that the government in Pyongyang is not easily overthrown.
North Korea saw the toppling of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya - neither of whom had nuclear weapons - as proof of the weapons' power.
"It will be the largest of miscalculations if the United States treats us like Iraq and Libya, which are living out miserable fates as victims of aggression, and Syria, which didn't respond immediately even after it was attacked," said a statement on Friday by the general staff of the North Korean army, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
Kim, wearing a suit and tie, was greeted with thunderous - and extensively practised - applause as he stepped into view on a large podium on Saturday, clapping to acknowledge the thousands of soldiers and civilians taking part in the parade at Kim Il Sung Square.
The elaborate display of the state's immense power involves tens of thousands of participants, from goose-stepping soldiers to crowds of civilians who have spent weeks perfecting their ability to wave plastic flowers in unison.
For outside military analysts, though, the highlight is the weaponry that the North puts on display.
A series of what appeared to be KN-08 missiles were among the weapons rolled out on trucks. Analysts say the missiles could one day be capable of hitting targets as far as the continental US, although North Korea has yet to flight test them.
The parade also included large rockets covered by canisters in two different types of transporter erector launcher trucks, or TELs. An official from South Korea's Defence Ministry could not immediately confirm whether any of them represented a new type of ICBM.
Kim Dong-yub, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said the canisters and trucks suggested the North was developing technology to "cold launch" ICBMs, ejecting them from the canisters before they ignite.
This would allow North Korea to prevent its limited number of ICBM-capable launcher trucks from being damaged during launches and also make the missiles harder to detect after they Are fired, he said. Cold launches would also allow the missiles to be fired from silos.
The analyst added that North Korea is also likely to be developing solid-fuel ICBMs, and that some of the rockets inside the canisters on Saturday might have been prototypes.
Other military hardware at the parade included tanks, multiple rocket launchers and artillery, as well as a solid-fuel missile designed to be fired from submarines.
Also on display was a powerful mid-range missile that can potentially reach US air bases in Guam, which outside analysts call a "Musudan", as well as a new solid-fuel mid-range missile that can be fired from land mobile launchers, making them harder to detect before launch.
Other senior officials joining Kim on the parade podium included Kim Won Hong, who the South Korean government had said earlier this year was fired from his job as state security minister, presumably over corruption.
South Korea has a patchy record of tracking developments in North Korea, as information about the secretive, authoritarian state is often impossible to confirm.