North Korea unveils 'monster' new intercontinental ballistic missile at parade
By Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea unveiled unseen ICBMs in an unprecedented pre-dawn military parade on Saturday that unveiled the country's long-range weapons for the first time in two years.
Analysts said the missile, which was shown on an 11-axis transporter vehicle, would be one of the largest road-mobile ICBMs in the world when it becomes operational.
"This missile is a monster," said Melissa Hanham, associate director of the Open Nuclear Network.
Also on display were the Hwasong-15, the long-range missile North Korea ever tested, and what appears to be a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
Ahead of the parade, held to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Labor Party, officials in South Korea and the United States said Kim Jong Un could use the event to unveil a new "strategic weapon" as promised earlier this year .
A senior US government official described the ICBM's account as "disappointing" and called on the government to negotiate full denuclearization.
The parade featured North Korea's ballistic missiles for the first time since Kim's 2018 meeting with international leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump.
"We will continue to build our national defense power and self-defense war deterrent," said Kim, but vowed that the country's military might would not be used preventively. He did not directly mention the United States or the now stalled denuclearization talks.
Kim accused international sanctions, typhoons and the coronavirus of preventing him from fulfilling promises of economic progress.
"I am ashamed that I could never properly repay you for your enormous trust," he said. "My efforts and my dedication were not enough to get our people out of difficult livelihoods."
The video showed Kim showing up when a clock struck midnight. In a gray suit and tie, he waved to the crowd and accepted flowers from children while he was surrounded by military officials in the recently renovated Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang.
Kim spoke for almost half an hour, often sweating visibly in spite of the cool morning air, shedding tears as he thanked the troops, and smiling and laughing as he watched the missiles.
The parade was highly choreographed, with thousands of troops marching in formation, new conventional military equipment including tanks, and fighter jets firing flares and fireworks.
Experts said the new, larger ICBM is likely designed to carry multiple Independent Re-Entry Vehicles (MIRVs), which can attack more targets and make interception difficult.
The new ICBM is likely to dispel doubts about North Korea's ability to attack the continental United States and an implicit threat it is preparing to test the larger missile, said Markus Garlauskas, a former U.S. intelligence officer for North Korea.
"If the Hwasong-15 could carry a 'super-large' nuclear warhead anywhere in the United States, the natural question would be what that larger missile can carry," he said.
Kim became visibly emotional as he thanked the troops for their sacrifice in responding to natural disasters and preventing a corovonavirus outbreak.
He said he was grateful that not a single North Korean had tested positive for the disease, a claim that South Korea and the United States had previously challenged.
While masks were shown to participants in other celebrations, no one in the parade appeared to be wearing them.
Kim said he hoped North and South Korea would join forces again when the global coronavirus crisis was over.
South Korean officials said this week that Kim could use the event as a "low intensity" show of force ahead of the November 3rd US presidential election as denuclearization talks with Washington stalled.
In a congratulatory message to Kim on the anniversary, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he wanted to "defend, consolidate and develop" relations with North Korea, the state media announced on Saturday.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Hyunyoung Yi in Seoul and Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by William Mallard, Ros Russell and Frances Kerry)
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