Trump suggests China is working with U.S. on North Korea solution

It was a day of spectacle: Jets soared overhead, flying in formation to form the number “105,” the number of years since the birth of Kim Il Sung, who forged an isolated “workers state” on the northern Korean Peninsula.

Tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of citizens — the men dressed in suits, the women in traditional Korean dresses — marched through central Pyongyang, clutching pink artificial flowers and national flags.

They clustered around floats adorned with political slogans. “Long live the socialist medical system,” said one, which was surrounded by doctors. Another, depicting a new residential development in Pyongyang, read: “We are the happiest in the world.”

The marchers turned their heads upward to North Korea’s current leader, Kim Jong Un, who surveyed the massive show of military might and public adulation from a high rostrum. Some wept.

The colorful show of pageantry and power Saturday offered a rare glimpse of one of the world’s most secretive societies. It also provided an opportunity for North Korea — striving to become the world’s next nuclear power — to stage a provocative display of the military hardware it continues to develop in defiance of international sanctions.

The government did not test a nuclear weapon to mark the anniversary, as many analysts had expected. A missile launch was attempted early Sunday, according to U.S. and South Korean officials, but it fizzled.

In a speech, Choe Ryong Hae, the vice chairman of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea — widely believed to be the country’s second-most powerful man — warned that Pyongyang would not hesitate to deploy nuclear weapons against the U.S.

“Now the U.S. imperialists have struck a sovereign country,” he said, referring to President Trump’s recent airstrike on a Syrian airbase in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack. “Now, they are dispatching nuclear forces in the territory of the Korean peninsula. If the U.S. government preemptively strikes our country, we are ready to counter strongly.”

Trump diverted a naval strike group toward the peninsula last week, led by the USS Carl Vinson, a large aircraft supercarrier accompanied by destroyers and a guided-missile cruiser. It is not known to carry nuclear weapons.

“There are just a lot of constraints on attacking North Korea,” said Robert Kelly, a professor of political science at Pusan National University in Seoul. “South Korea isn’t configured very well to absorb North Korean counterfire: 55% of its population lives within 75 miles of North Korea. It’s insane. It’s like facing a fencing partner without any armor over your chest.”

Throughout the parade, which lasted for about two hours, Kim stood above the crowd, wearing a black suit and white tie. He clapped, waved and saluted for more than two hours, as hundreds of thousands of North Koreans streamed by, howling, “Long live,” their faces contorted with emotion.

Afterward, as municipal workers swept artificial flower petals from the square, Youn Dok-kin, a 47-year-old doctor, said that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program made him proud.

“Our country has always been threatened by the nuclear weapons of the U.S. imperialists,” he said. “Now, we have our own nuclear force, and our country can defend our national security, and our peace.”

For more news from Asia, follow @JRKaiman on Twitter

Special correspondent Jessica Meyers in Beijing contributed to this report.


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4:50 p.m.: This article was updated with news of an attempted missile launch by North Korea.

This article was originally published at 8:50 a.m.

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