North Korea unveils ‘world’s most powerful weapon’ as Kim Jong-un sends warning to Biden

North Korea: Military parade shows off new ballistic missiles

State-controlled media described the new missile as “the world’s most powerful weapon” while defence experts suggested its display was intended as a strong message to the world ahead of the inauguration of incoming US President Joe Biden. Kim smiled and waved as the parade, which featured rows of marching soldiers as well as a range of military hardware including tanks and rocket launchers, passed before him.

North Korea is setting the stage before the Biden administration takes office

Suh Kune-yull

The event’s climax featured the arrival of what security analysts described as new variants of short-range ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) which rolled into Pyongyang’s Kim Il-sung Square on heavy transporter trucks.

North Korean news agency KCNA said: “The world’s most powerful weapon, submarine-launch ballistic missiles, entered the square one after another, powerfully demonstrating the might of the revolutionary armed forces.”

Pyongyang has test-fired several SLBMs from under water and analysts warn Kim is now seeking to develop an operational submarine to carry the missiles.

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Photos released by state media showed the SLBM was labelled Pukguksong-5, potentially marking an upgrade over the Pukguksong-4 that was unveiled at a larger military parade in October.

Michael Duitsman, a researcher at the California-based James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies, said: “The new missile definitely looks longer.”

Last night’s military showcase did not feature North Korea’s largest intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which are believed to be able to deliver a nuclear warhead to anywhere in the USA.

South Korea’s government did not immediately comment on the parade but the foreign ministry said its top nuclear envoy had discussed North Korea’s recent moves with his counterpart in the US.

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said the parade in itself was not intended to be a provocation but was a worrying sign of Pyongyang’s priorities.

He said: “The economy is severely strained from pandemic border closures, policy mismanagement and international sanctions.

“Despite or perhaps because of this, Kim Jong-un feels the need to devote scarce resources to another political-military display.”

North Korean officials have been meeting in Pyongyang for the first party congress since 2016.

Kim announced a new five-year plan to revitalise the economy in the face of crises caused by anti-coronavirus measures, natural disasters, and international sanctions over the nuclear and missile programmes.

Suh Kune-yull, a professor at Seoul National University who specialises in nuclear technology, said the range and the upgrade of the SLBM is not as important as the message Kim is trying to send by staging the congress and the military parade right before Mr Biden takes office.

He said: “What’s more important is to note that this is the harbinger of resuming nuclear tests that were put off.

“North Korea is setting the stage before the Biden administration takes office.”

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North Korea has not tested a nuclear bomb or fired its longest-range ICBMs since 2017.

Kim has signalled he no longer feels bound by a self-imposed moratorium after denuclearisation talks with Donald Trump stalled.

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