North Koreans celebrate country's 70th anniversary

With no long-range missiles on display, North Korea staged a military parade on Sunday focused on conventional arms, peace and economic development, to mark the 70th anniversary of the country's founding.
Line upon line of goose-stepping soldiers and columns of tanks shook the ground before giving way to chanting crowds waving flags and flowers as they passed a review stand where North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sat with a special envoy from China, as well as other visiting foreigners. Kim told the envoy, Chinese parliament chief Li Zhanshu, that North Korea was focusing on economic development and hopes to learn from China's experience in this regard, Chinese state television reported.' North Korea upholds the consensus of the Singapore meeting between the leaders of North Korea and the United States and has taken steps for it and hopes the United States takes corresponding steps, to jointly promote the political resolution process for the peninsula issue,' the report paraphrased Kim as saying.

The parade highlight themes of military accomplishment, national development, and international engagement at a time when doubts are arising over Kim's commitment to abandoning nuclear weapons. Unlike in previous years, there were no inter-continental missiles on display. And there were no nuclear tests to mark the holiday, as has happened in each of the last two years. North Korea routinely uses major holidays to showcase its military capabilities and the latest developments in missile technology. But that has lessened this year, underlining Kim's stated aim for denuclearising the Korean peninsula and his recent meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and summits with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing and Dalian. The theme for the celebrations this year was economic development and unifying the Korean peninsula, divided since World War Two.
A huge float was decorated with a modern train, solar panels, wind power plants and dams, under a slogan of 'All our might to build economy!', as North Korean men in construction, workwear marched. Kim Yong Nam, North Korea's titular head of state, gave a speech at the parade in which he said the country had achieved status as a military power, and would now pursue efforts to strengthen its economy. Floats on unification also passed by a throng of North Koreans waving unified Korea flags.' All Koreans should join forces to accomplish unification in our generation. Unification is the only way Koreans can survive,' said an editorial in North Korea's party newspaper Rodong Sinmun. Kim Jong Un and his South Korean counterpart Moon will meet in Pyongyang on Sept. 18-20 for the third time this year and discuss 'practical measures' towards denuclearisation, officials in Seoul have said.

As part of the celebrations, a concert was held on Saturday evening in front of an invited audience of several thousand people at Pyongyang Indoor Stadium. Featuring three of the state's top musical ensembles the State Merited Chorus army choir, the Samjiyon Orchestra and the Mansudae Art Troupe a red grand piano took centre stage. At such events in North Korea performers normally play in front of a giant screen displaying the country's successes. In recent years that has always included footage of the ballistic missile launches under leader Kim Jong-un that, along with Pyongyang's nuclear tests, have earned the North multiple sets of UN Security Council sanctions.
But in a dramatic turnaround on the peninsula triggered by the Winter Olympics in the South in February, the North is engaged on multiple diplomatic fronts, even as the US insists it gives up its weapons. After a June meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore and its third summit with the South's President Moon Jae-in due in Pyongyang later this month, the North is keen to send a different message to the past. Instead of missiles, the imagery at Saturday's concert highlighted North Korean landmarks, from its spiritual birthplace Mount Paektu to the Pyongyang skyline, and economic development, with shots of factories, steel plants, and abundant fields of wheat.

Only a few short segments featured the military, with only conventional equipment on display.And in one, when tanks rolled, jets flew and infantry marched, a message ran across the top of the screen: 'Military strength ensures peace'.Moments later the hardware was replaced with images of ripe red apples.In April, leader Kim declared the North's nuclear programme a success and said the country's new strategic priority would be 'socialist economic construction'.

Every time Kim's grandfather, the North's founder Kim Il Sung, or his successors appeared on screen the audience broke into applause, with the loudest reserved for the current leader. Songs included 'Socialism, I love you', and the first-ever public performance of a new ode to Kim Jong-un, 'Beloved, our father'.' The Supreme Leader visits every family even at midnight and even at dawn,' ran the lyrics. 'He hears everything the ordinary people say... We are confident in his powerful leadership, taking us into the future, Oh, Comrade Kim Jong-un.'

Pictured: participants arrive in Pyongyang to take part in events over the weekend to commemorate the country's 70th anniversary.
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