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Kim Jong-un claims North Korea is 'Covid-free' during military parade
10 October 2020, 17:58
Kim Jong-un has claimed North Korea is coronavirus-free as he unveiled a new arsenal of weapons during a large military parade.
During the event to mark the 75th anniversary of the country's ruling party, the dictator warned that North Korea would "fully mobilise" its nuclear force if threatened.
He unveiled what appeared to be a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), possibly the nation's biggest yet, which was set atop an 11-axel launch vehicle that was also seen for the first time.
The North Korean leader refused to directly criticise Washington during his speech, ahead of next month's 2020 US presidential election.
Rather, Mr Kim used it to rally domestic support, urging people to remain firm in the face of "tremendous challenges" posed by the coronavirus pandemic and crippling US-led sanctions over his nuclear programme.
He explained that it remained necessary to continue building a nuclear deterrent to protect the country, although he did not target a specific enemy.
But, he said, "if any force harms the safety of our nation, we will fully mobilise the strongest offensive might in a pre-emptive manner to punish them".
Also on display in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square were thousands of goose-stepping troops, tanks, armoured vehicles, rocket launchers and a broad range of ballistic missiles, all of which have become synonymous with North Korea's military spectacles.
A presumptive new solid-fuel weapon that could be an advanced version of a North Korean missile designed to be fired from submarines was also on display.
In December, the dictator promised he would continue to expand the country's nuclear arsenal amid "gangster-like" US pressure and that he would soon unveil a "new strategic weapon to the world".
Early on Saturday, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said there were signs that the North had mobilised "large crowds and equipment" for a parade at the square. Later, North Korean state television began airing a taped broadcast of the event, which began Friday evening.
Troops marched in the streets in front of the brightly lit square, while a military band performed as it moved in formation.
Everyone present roared as their leader, dressed in a suit and tie, appeared from a building as the clock struck midnight.
Smiling widely, he waved to the crowd and kissed children who presented him with flowers before taking his spot on a balcony.
He repeatedly thanked his "great people" for overcoming "unexpected" burdens and abiding by the anti-virus measures imposed by the ruling party and government to keep the country free of Covid-19, a claim that has been widely questioned by outside observers.
Mr Kim also extended an olive branch to rival South Korea, expressing hope that the countries could repair bilateral ties once the threat of the pandemic is over. The North had suspended virtually all co-operation with the South amid the stalemate in larger nuclear negotiations with the United States.
After his speech, Mr Kim waved and watched with binoculars as the military hardware was rolled out in the square. He saluted as fighter jets flew in formation overhead, using fireworks to form the Workers' Party symbol - a hammer, brush and sickle - and the number 75 in the sky.