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Russian, Chinese officials join Kim at North Korea military parade

Russian, Chinese officials join Kim at North Korea military parade
A photo released by the official North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) shakes hands with Chinese Communist Party politburo member Li Hongzhong (R) as he attends a military parade held to mark the 70th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that halted the 1950-53 Korean War, at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, 27 July 2023 (issued 28 July 2023). EPA-EFE/KCNA EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Chinese and Russian officials stood shoulder to shoulder with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as they reviewed his newest nuclear-capable missiles and attack drones at a military parade in the capital, North Korean state media showed on Friday.

The widely anticipated parade in Pyongyang the previous day commemorated the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, celebrated in North Korea as “Victory Day”.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s visit was the first by Moscow’s top defence official since the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union. The Chinese delegation was the first since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their appearance at events with the North’s nuclear-capable missiles – banned by the U.N. Security Council with Chinese and Russian support – was in contrast from previous years, when Beijing and Moscow sought to distance themselves from their neighbour’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development.

Kim, Shoigu and Chinese Communist Party Politburo member Li Hongzhong talked, laughed and saluted as North Korean troops marched and weapons rolled past, photographs and footage aired by North Korean state media showed.

The parade included North Korea’s latest Hwasong-17 and Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to the KCNA state news agency. They are believed to have the range to strike anywhere in the United States.

The event also featured a flyover by new attack and spy drones, KCNA reported.

Kim hosted a reception and lunch with Shoigu and vowed solidarity with Russia’s people and military. Shoigu praised the North Korean military as the strongest in the world, and the two discussed strategic security and defence cooperation, KCNA said.

At another meeting, Shoigu read a congratulatory message from Russian President Vladimir Putin who thanked North Korea for its support during the “special military operation” in Ukraine, media reported.

The United States has accused North Korea of providing weapons to Russia for its war in Ukraine. State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said on Thursday the U.S. was “incredibly concerned” about their ties.

North Korea and Russia have denied conducting any arms transactions.

DRONES

The new surveillance drones could be used to survey targets, assess damage and generally enhance situational awareness, said Ankit Panda of the U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

In December five North Korean drones crossed into the South, which scrambled fighter jets and helicopters in response. It increased anti-drone measures at key facilities, including the presidential office.

The attack drones would have limited use in a war on the Korean Peninsula given their vulnerability to anti-aircraft defences, but “North Korea may seek to offer these drones to external customers”, Panda said.

The drones were among the weapons on show at an arms fair that Kim and Shoigu visited earlier, state media showed.

North Korean Defence Minister General Kang Sun Nam, in a speech at the parade, accused the United States and its allies of increasing tension in the region.

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions for its missile and nuclear programmes since 2006. It is banned from developing ballistic missiles.

In recent years Russia and China have opposed U.S.-led efforts to impose more sanctions on North Korea over its pursuit of ballistic missiles, arguing existing measures should be eased for humanitarian purposes and to help entice it to negotiate.

The Chinese and Russian presence at events with banned missiles cast doubts on their willingness to enforce sanctions, said Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

“It doesn’t help when two permanent members of the U.N. Security Council openly support a North Korean regime that violates human rights and flouts resolutions banning its nuclear and missile development,” Easley said.

U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said: “All members of Security Council and, frankly, all member states of the U.N., share the same responsibility to uphold Security Council resolutions”.

South Korea and the United States have conducted numerous military exercises in response to what they call North Korean provocations, the latest a five-day drill with advanced fighter jets, including F-35A stealth aircraft, South Korea said.

(Reporting by Hyunsu Yim and Josh Smith in Seoul; Editing by Ed Davies, Lincoln Feast and William Mallard)

 

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