North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has attended a massive civilian parade in the capital celebrating the anniversary of the birth of his grandfather who founded the country.
Thousands of people marched in Pyongyang in a choreographed display of loyalty to the Kim family, state media said.
The reports did not mention any speech or comments made by Mr Kim during Friday’s event and it appeared the country passed its biggest holiday without showcasing its military hardware, amid heightened tensions over its nuclear programme.
Commercial satellite images in recent weeks have indicated preparations for a large military parade in Pyongyang, which could take place on the April 25 founding anniversary of North Korea’s army, and display the most advanced weapons in the nuclear arsenal such as intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
There is also expectation that Pyongyang will further escalate its weapons testing in the coming weeks or months, possibly including a resumption of nuclear explosive tests or test-flying missiles over Japan, as it attempts to force a response from the Biden administration, which is preoccupied with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a rivalry with China.
State media images showed Mr Kim waving from a balcony looking over Kim Il Sung Square, which is named after his grandfather, as huge columns of people carrying red plastic flowers and floats with political slogans marched below.
Ri Il Hwan, a member of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Politburo, issued a call for loyalty during a speech, saying that North Koreans will “always emerge victorious” under Mr Kim’s guidance.
The parade came hours before thousands of young people performed a mass dance in the square as fireworks launched from a nearby riverbank lit up the night sky.
Kim Il Sung’s birthday is the most important national holiday in North Korea, where the Kim family has ruled under a strong personality cult since the nation’s founding in 1948.
This week’s celebrations marking the 110th anniversary of his birth came as his grandson revives nuclear brinkmanship aimed at forcing the United States to accept the idea of North Korea as a nuclear power and remove crippling economic sanctions.
North Korea has opened 2022 with a series of weapons tests, including its first flight test of an ICBM since 2017.
South Korea’s military has also detected signs that North Korea is rebuilding tunnels at a nuclear testing ground it partially dismantled weeks before Mr Kim’s first summit with then-US president Donald Trump in June 2018.
Mr Kim’s defiant displays of his military might are also motivated by domestic politics, experts say, as he does not otherwise have significant accomplishments to trumpet to his people after a decade in rule.
His stated goals of simultaneously developing nuclear weapons and bringing economic prosperity to his impoverished populace derailed after the collapse of his second summit with Mr Trump in 2019, when the Americans rejected North Korea’s demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a limited surrender of its nuclear capabilities.
The Covid-19 pandemic unleashed further shock on his broken economy, forcing him to acknowledge last year that the North was facing its “worst-ever situation”.