Published: Mon, September 10, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Drones and gymnasts: North Korean 'Mass Games' return with messages of reconciliation

Drones and gymnasts: North Korean 'Mass Games' return with messages of reconciliation

North Korea staged a military parade to celebrate the country's 70th anniversary Sunday - but markedly missing was the regime's collection of long-range ballistic missiles or any mention of its nuclear program.

Unlike some past shows, however, Sunday's imagery largely left out any anti-American themes, though one portion compared global sanctions over North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs to waves crashing against the country.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had also confirmed on Saturday that he had received a letter from Kim for President Donald Trump.

Among the crowd were North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju, .as well as foreign VVIPs, including Li Zhanshu, the number-three man in China, sent by Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Kim and Li locked hands and raised arms at the end of the event. "Energy of the parade was much more upbeat and lighthearted versus previous years - not so much the military portion but definitely in civilian portion". The military portion featured thousands of soldiers wearing uniforms from different periods of North Korea's history, dating back from 1948 through to the present day.

Pyongyang now claims that it wants its security guaranteed and a peace agreement formally ending the Korean War in place before it will get rid of its nuclear warheads.

North Korea is clearly trying to switch its emphasis away from just military power to its efforts to improve the country's domestic economy.

Mr Li had travelled to North Korea as a special envoy of President Xi.

Kim's new missile was allegedly already finished when he ordered the launch at the beginning of this year amid tensions with Trump.

North Korea's state-run media published Friday what it said was an "indictment" by its South Korean wing, denouncing US forces on the peninsula and calling their withdrawal "the irresistible trend of the times".

The past two big anniversaries of North Korea's founding, in 2008 and 2013, did not feature the Korean People's Army, only the civil defense units, which are officially called "Worker Peasant Red Guards".

The parade allowed Kim to highlight themes of military accomplishment, national development, and worldwide engagement at a time when doubts are arising over his commitment to abandoning nuclear weapons.

This November 29, 2017, file image provided by the North Korean government on November 30, 2017, shows firing of what the North Korean government calls the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, at an undisclosed location in North Korea.

Japan's Abe is set to meet Putin on Monday evening to discuss "boosting economic cooperation and commercial exchanges" but also to "exchange views on the situation on the Korean peninsula", said Russian presidential adviser Yuri Ushakov.

Pyongyang residents unable to attend at the square on Sunday lined the streets around town to cheer and applaud convoys carrying the troops after they completed the parade duties.

No ICMBs were showcased in Pyongyang as the country celebrated its 70th anniversary on Sunday.

The mass games performances are expected to continue for the next month or so, with tickets for foreigners starting at just over $100 and going up to more than $800 per seat.

As the country launches a "new era" of reconciliation and global engagement, Sunday's premiere in Pyongyang was the first Mass Games in five years and was a major part of a carefully choreographed weekend of events created to highlight Kim's diplomatic campaign and plans for economic development. He claims to have perfected his nuclear arsenal enough to deter US aggression and devote his resources to raising the nation's standard of living.

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