Saturday July 4th, 2020 1:04AM

North Korea uses 70th anniversary to push economy, not nukes

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea held a major military parade and revived its iconic mass games to celebrate its 70th anniversary, 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 Sunday's 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 center.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans waving brightly colored 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 symbolize 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 emphasized 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.

After a truncated parade featuring tanks and some of North Korea's biggest artillery, fewer than the usual number of missiles and lots of goose-stepping units from all branches of the military, the focus switched to civilian groups ranging from nurses to students to construction workers, many with colorful floats beside them.

The combining of military and civilian sections is a familiar North Korean parade format.

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."

Although North Korea stages military parades almost every year, and held one just before the Olympics began in South Korea in February this year, Sunday's parade came at a particularly sensitive time.

Kim's effort to ease tensions with President Donald Trump has stalled since their June summit in Singapore. Both sides are now insisting on a different starting point. Washington wants Kim to commit to denuclearization first, but Pyongyang wants its security guaranteed and a peace agreement formally ending the Korean War.

With tensions once again on the rise, a parade featuring the very missiles that so unnerved Trump last year, and led to a dangerous volley of insults from both leaders, could have been seen as a deliberate provocation. The North also refrained from immediately televising the event, though North Korean media were out in force to film it, deploying booms and — for possibly the first time — drones with cameras.

"This is a big and very positive statement from North Korea," Trump tweeted. "Thank you To Chairman Kim. We will both prove everyone wrong! There is nothing like good dialogue from two people that like each other! Much better than before I took office."

The North did show off a battery of big artillery pieces known as self-propelled guns that could be used to threaten Seoul, South Korea's capital. But the only types of missiles displayed were short-range surface-to-surface missiles, a surface-to-air missile and an anti-ship cruise missile.

That's a big departure from February's parade, when it displayed its Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, believed capable of reaching the U.S., and a number of other formidable missiles and the erector-launchers used to fire them off from remote locations.

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.

Soon after the anniversary celebrations end, Kim will meet in Pyongyang with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss ways to break the impasse over his nuclear weapons.

The "new line" of putting economic development first has been Kim's top priority this year. He claims to have perfected his nuclear arsenal enough to deter U.S. aggression and devote his resources to raising his nation's standard of living.

The economic theme was also prominent in the new mass games routine, which was markedly lighter in tone and more entertaining than in previous years, when it tended to be more dramatic and overtly political.

The mass games, dubbed "Shining Fatherland," featured everything from a display of drones flying in formation to fireworks, lasers, circus-style performances and at one point hundreds of martial artists doing taekwondo. A running commentary throughout the show pointed out the importance of following Kim's economic and development strategy, while significantly playing down the role of the military and not once mentioning North Korea's nuclear weapons.

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.

___

Talmadge is the AP's Pyongyang bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @EricTalmadge

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top General short headlines, AP World News, AP Business, AP Business - Economy
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
North Korea uses 70th anniversary to push economy, not nukes
North Korea has staged a huge military parade to mark its 70th anniversary as a nation but held back its most advanced missiles and devoted nearly half of the parade to civilian efforts to build the domestic economy
8:50PM ( 10 minutes ago )
2 players kneel for anthem, Kaepernick tweets to thank them
Two players kneel for anthem on NFL's opening Sunday, and Kaepernick tweets to thank them
8:47PM ( 14 minutes ago )
The Latest: Bears' Khalil Mack makes presence felt
It didn't take long for new Bears linebacker Khalil Mack to make his presence felt against the Green Bay Packers
8:39PM ( 22 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
The Latest: Swedish PM summons 'good forces' after setback
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven says he intends to remain in the job after his center-left party recorded its worst election performance
7:09PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Moderate leader calls on Swedish PM to resign
The leader of the party that was poised to place second in Sweden's general election says he has secured a mandate to form a new government and is calling on the sitting prime minister to resign
5:45PM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: Swedish far-right leader says party 'won' vote
The leader of a far-right party that campaigned with an anti-migrant message says the party has "won" Sweden's national election
5:18PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP World News
The Latest: Titans, Dolphins playing again after 2nd delay
The Titans and Miami Dolphins are playing again after their second delay for lightning in the area after two separate delays combining for 3 hours, 59 minutes
7:10PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Tyreek Hill scores TDs 3 ways for Chiefs
Tyreek Hill has three touchdowns in his first game of the season for Kansas City
6:54PM ( 2 hours ago )
Calm returns to Iraq's Basra after week of violent protests
A sense of calm has returned to Iraq's southern city of Basra after a week of violent protests over unemployment and poor public services that left at least 15 people dead
3:19PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Business
NKorea holds off on advanced missiles at anniversary parade
North Korea has staged a huge military parade to mark its 70th anniversary as a nation but held back its most advanced missiles and devoted nearly half of the parade to civilian efforts to build the domestic economy
11:06AM ( 9 hours ago )
Boris Johnson's Brexit 'suicide vest' comment sparks furor
Former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has compared Prime Minister Theresa May's plan for Brexit to putting the country's constitution in a "suicide vest" and handing the detonator to the European Union
6:39AM ( 14 hours ago )
N. Korea stages huge parade, holds back on advanced missiles
North Korea has staged a huge military parade to mark its 70th anniversary as a nation but held back its most advanced missiles and devoted nearly half of the parade to civilian efforts to build the domestic economy
3:20AM ( 17 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
2 players kneel for anthem, Kaepernick tweets to thank them
Two players kneel for anthem on NFL's opening Sunday, and Kaepernick tweets to thank them
8:47PM ( 14 minutes ago )
The Latest: Bears' Khalil Mack makes presence felt
It didn't take long for new Bears linebacker Khalil Mack to make his presence felt against the Green Bay Packers
8:39PM ( 22 minutes ago )
Djokovic wins US Open for 14th major, tying 'idol' Sampras
Novak Djokovic won his 14th Grand Slam title and second in a row by getting through a key 20-minute game to beat 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the U.S. Open final
8:33PM ( 27 minutes ago )
The Latest: Tower memorial dedicated at Flight 93 crash site
A wind chime tower is in place at the national memorial to the crew and passengers killed when terrorists crashed a hijacked plane into a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001
8:15PM ( 45 minutes ago )
The Latest: WTA favors coaching, equal treatment for players
The Latest: WTA calls for coaching in tennis, equal treatment for players
8:13PM ( 48 minutes ago )