Tue | Sep 18, 2018

North Korea stresses economy, not nukes, on 70th anniversary

Published:Monday | September 10, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Participants cheer during a parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's founding day in Pyongyang, North Korea yesterday. North Korea staged a major military parade and huge rallies to mark its 70th anniversary as a nation. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

PYONGYANG (AP):

North Korea held a major military parade and revived its iconic mass games to celebrate its 70th anniversary on Sunday, but in keeping with leader Kim Jong Un's new policies, the emphasis was firmly on building up the economy, not on nuclear weapons.

The North rolled out some of its latest tanks and marched its best-trained goose-stepping units in the parade but held back its most advanced missiles and devoted nearly half of the event to civilian efforts to build the domestic economy.

It also brought the mass games back after a five-year hiatus. The games are a grand spectacle that features nearly 20,000 people flipping placards in unison to create huge mosaics as thousands more perform gymnastics or dance in formation on the competition area of Pyongyang's 150,000-seat May Day Stadium.

The strong emphasis on the economy underscores the strategy Kim has pursued since January of putting economic development front and centre.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans waving brightly coloured plastic bouquets filled Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square as the parade began. Residents of Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, trained for months for the anniversary and held up the bouquets to spell out words and slogans that can be seen from the VIP viewing area.

Kim attended the morning parade but did not address the assembled crowd, which included the head of the Chinese parliament and high-level delegations from countries that have friendly ties with the North.

At the end of the two-hour event, he strolled to the edge of the balcony with the Chinese special envoy, Li Zhanshu, the third-ranking member in China's ruling Communist Party. The two held up their joined hands to symbolise the countries' traditionally close ties, though the absence of Chinese President Xi Jinping could indicate Beijing still has some reservations about Kim's initiatives.

Senior statesman Kim Yong Nam, the head of North Korea's parliament, set the relatively softer tone for the parade with an opening speech that emphasised the economic goals of the regime, not its nuclear might. He called on the military to be ready to work to help build the economy.