North Korea celebrates founding anniversary with parade attended by Russian, Chinese officials


North Korea marked its founding anniversary with a parade attended by leader Kim Jong Un, accompanied by a significant presence of Russian diplomats and a high-ranking Chinese delegation, according to state media reports on Saturday. This event underscores North Korea’s strengthening ties with Moscow and Beijing.

The parade, which took place on Friday, notably featured Pyongyang’s paramilitary forces instead of regular army soldiers. It did not display banned weaponry, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, as seen in previous parades. Instead, images in state media depicted uniformed paramilitary brigades, some on tractors or large red trucks, with Kim Jong Un, accompanied by his young daughter, watching and applauding.

Kim Il Sung Square was described as being “full of excitement and joy,” as reported by the official Korean Central News Agency, which noted that all participants paid tribute and gratitude to Kim Jong Un as a “peerless patriot and ever-victorious iron-willed commander.”

During the event, Kim held talks with the visiting Chinese delegation, led by Liu Guozhong, vice-premier of the State Council. This meeting marked the second high-level visit by Chinese officials in six weeks and coincided with North Korea’s signs of easing strict Covid-era border controls. Both sides announced their intention to “further intensify multi-faceted coordination and cooperation” between their nations, according to a separate KCNA report.

Russian diplomats also participated in the event, along with a Russian military song-and-dance ensemble that arrived in Pyongyang to commemorate the occasion. Moscow had recently expanded its official presence in North Korea, with its embassy announcing the first rotation of 20 diplomatic and technical staff since 2019, just before the parade.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent Kim a congratulatory message on the anniversary, in which he called for expanding bilateral ties in all respects. Chinese state media reported that President Xi Jinping also extended congratulations to Kim Jong Un in a phone call.

This parade was the third held by North Korea this year. The previous parade in late July showcased the country’s most advanced weaponry and commemorated the signing of an armistice that ended hostilities in the 1950-53 Korean War. Speculation is growing that Kim Jong Un may meet with Vladimir Putin to discuss arms deals, with reports suggesting Kim may travel to Vladivostok by armoured train later this month.

The United States and other officials have expressed concerns over the growing cooperation between China, Russia, and North Korea, fearing it may lead to a new Cold War. Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, stated, “Most stakeholders in the region want to avoid a new Cold War, but this looks increasingly difficult as Beijing and Moscow prop up Pyongyang and North Korea aligns itself with China and Russia’s challenges to the international order.” However, he added, “A major Russia-North Korea arms deal, in breach of numerous international sanctions, should worry Beijing.”

The parade came just two days after North Korea unveiled its first “tactical nuclear attack submarine,” with Kim Jong Un emphasizing its role in the “nuclear weaponization of the Navy.” South Korean military officials, however, expressed doubts about the operational status of the vessel.

North Korea has conducted a record number of weapons tests this year, including a failed attempt to put a spy satellite into orbit last month. In response, South Korea and the United States have escalated security cooperation.

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