North Korea held a paramilitary parade on Friday to mark 75 years since the establishment of North Korean rule, attended by Russian and Chinese delegations, as leader Kim Jong Un looked on, the official KCNA news agency reported. .
The event was a parade of "paramilitary forces", according to KCNA, and not of regular army soldiers as usual.
He apparently did not display prohibited weapons, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles. State media footage showed uniformed paramilitary squads, some on tractors or large red trucks, as Mr. Kim and his daughter looked on cheering and smiling.
The "September 8" parade at Kim Il Sung Square in the capital Pyongyang marked the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, KCNA further explained, using North Korea's official name.
Mr. Kim met with the Chinese delegation led by Liu Guozhong, Vice Premier of the State Council. This is the second visit in six weeks by senior Chinese officials, as Pyongyang relaxes its anti-Covid border controls.
The two sides announced their intention to continue to "intensify coordination and cooperation" between the two countries, KCNA also reports.
Russian diplomats also participated in the event, as well as a Russian military dance and song ensemble that came to Pyongyang for the occasion, according to KCNA.
Moscow stepped up its official presence in North Korea shortly before the parade, with its embassy in Pyongyang saying this week it had been authorized to bring in 20 diplomats and technicians, the first such personnel rotation since 2019.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent Kim Jong Un a message celebrating the anniversary in which he called on the two countries to "develop bilateral ties in all respects", KCNA reported on Saturday.
And according to Chinese state media, President Xi Jinping "congratulated Kim Jong Un in a call" on the anniversary.
"For the North Koreans, it is a new confirmation that they can count on the support of China and a good confirmation that, since the war in Ukraine, Russia has no other choice but to support the North Korea,” said analyst Andrei Lankov.
Mr. Liu's visit with a delegation of senior officials comes after the visit in July of another representative from Beijing, Li Hongzhong, a member of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party.
The presence of Chinese and Russian dignitaries also comes as Washington says Kim Jong Un wants to meet Vladimir Putin in Russia to discuss arms deliveries.
The North Korean leader rarely leaves his country and has not done so since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
US officials told the New York Times that Mr Kim would likely travel by armored train to Vladivostok, on Russia's Pacific coast, to meet Mr Putin.
Mr Lankov told AFP that a Kim-Putin meeting was "likely" because, for Moscow, "with a little diplomacy, North Korea can be used as a tool to influence the behavior of the United States , South Korea" and other countries regarding the war in Ukraine.
The rapprochements between Moscow and Pyongyang, and in particular possible naval exercises, constitute “light diplomatic blackmail” vis-à-vis Washington, he added.
Growing cooperation between China, Russia and North Korea, coupled with Xi's absence from the G20 summit in India, "gives the impression of a growing fissure in Asia's geopolitical landscape" , said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
“Most players in the region want to avoid a new Cold War, but this seems increasingly difficult as Beijing and Moscow support Pyongyang,” he said.
However, he added that a "major arms deal between Russia and North Korea, in violation of numerous international sanctions, should worry Beijing."
This week, Pyongyang unveiled its first "tactical combat nuclear submarine," but the South Korean military said the craft may not be operational.
09/09/2023 09:19:23 - Seoul (AFP) - © 2023 AFP