North Korea kicks off military extravaganza

  • 11/10/2015
North Korean military participate in the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (Reuters)
North Korean military participate in the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (Reuters)

By Giles Hewitt

North Korea is ready to deal with any threat from the US, leader Kim Jong-Un said as he presided over a vast parade to mark the 70th anniversary of its ruling Workers' Party.

Wave after wave of goose-stepping troops marched through the capital, followed by columns of tanks and weapons, in what may prove to be one of the largest ceremonial displays of military strength in North Korea's history.

Wearing his customary dark Mao suit, state television showed Kim receiving salutes from a commander of honorary guards before inspecting the phalanx of troops in Kim Il-Sung Square.

In a rare speech to the assembled masses, a tribute to the ruling party that has served at the whim of three generations of the Kim dynasty, the leader lashed out at the United States, vowing to fight "any war" if provoked.

"Our party dauntlessly declares that our revolutionary armed forces are capable of fighting any kind of war provoked by the US and we are ready to protect our people and the blue sky of our motherland," he said.

His words were met with rapturous applause from tens of thousands of flag-waving crowds while, above the square, a large banner slung from a gas-filled balloon read: "Long live the invincible Workers' Party of Korea."

Buildings surrounding the plaza, named after Kim's grandfather and the founding leader of North Korea, were festooned with red hammer-and-sickle party flags and the national colours of blue, white and red.

A cavalcade of tanks, armoured vehicles and assorted ballistic hardware was on display at the huge march, which will be closely watched for glimpses of any new hardware that might signal a forward step in the North's military development.

North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests and threatened a fourth as part of a nuclear weapons and missile program that it has pursued through a barrage of international sanctions.

An exhaustively researched report published this week by the US-based Institute for Science and International Security estimated North Korea had between 10 and 16 nuclear weapons as of the end of 2014.

The report argued the country could probably already build a warhead to fit atop a Nodong missile - with a range of less than 1300 kilometres - but added the reliability of such a weapon was open to question.

Months of planning and preparation have gone into Saturday's celebrations, involving a mass mobilisation of state personnel and resources to ensure its success.