Thousands march in North Korea on Kim's 110th birthday

Thousands march in North Korea on Kim's 110th birthday

Thousands of North Koreans marched in a choreographed display of loyalty to the ruling Kim family during a massive civilian parade celebrating the birthday of the country s founder, attended by his grandson and current leader, Kim Jong-un.

State media images showed Kim waving from a balcony overlooking the vast square in Pyongyang named after his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, as huge columns of people carrying red plastic flowers and floats with political slogans marched below.

Ri Il-hwan, a member of the ruling Workers Party politburo, made a speech calling for loyalty, saying North Koreans will always emerge victorious under Kim's guidance. It appeared Kim didn't deliver a speech during Friday's event and state media didn't mention any comments toward the United States or South Korea.

Kim Il-sung's birthday is the most important national holiday in North Korea, where the Kim family has been ruled under a strong personality cult since the nation s founding in 1948. This week s celebrations marking the 110th anniversary of his birth came as his grandson revives nuclear brinkmanship with the US and his neighbours.

Earlier this month, Sung Kim, special representative for North Korea policy at the US state department, said Washington believed Pyongyang could demonstrate its growing nuclear weapons capacity on Kim Il-sung's birthday, but it appeared the country passed its biggest holiday without its military hardware.

North Korea opened in 2022 with a slew of weapons tests, including its first flight test of an ICBM since 2017. South Korea's military has also detected signs that North Korea is rebuilding tunnels at a nuclear testing ground it partially dismantled weeks before Kim s first summit with US President Donald Trump in June 2018.

Kim's defiant displays of his military might are likely motivated by domestic politics, experts say, as he doesn't have significant accomplishments to trumpet to his people after a decade in power.

Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, said that Kim Jong-un s stated goal of deploying tactical nuclear weapons, his sister Kim Yo-jong's recent threats toward Seoul and satellite imagery of tunnelling activity at Punggye-ri all point to an upcoming nuclear test. There are more missile launches planned for honing weapons delivery systems. Sung Kim is scheduled to visit South Korea next week for talks on the international community's response to North Korea's recent missile tests.