North Korea flaunts new weapons amid Washington, D.C., turmoil

HAKYUNG KATE LEE and KIRIT RADIA
·3 min read

Amid the turmoil in Washington, D.C., following the Capitol Hill riot of Jan. 6, and days before President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, North Korea is displaying its defense capabilities by holding its second military parade in just three months.

The military parade filled Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang under the watchful eye of Kim Jong Un and other top officials Thursday evening according to North Korea's state-run news outlet, Korean Central News Agency. The parade came after the eight-day Party Congress, where the North Korean leader called for new nuclear-powered submarines and tactical nuclear weapons.

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In addition to the usual phalanxes of troops, rows of tanks, armored vehicles and rockets, there were several new weapons introduced to the public at the parade. One was "Pukguksong 5," assumed to be an upgraded version of the nation's submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) based on pictures published by KCNA. State media claimed it to be "the world's most powerful weapon, submarine-launch ballistic missile"

PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves during a ceremony for the 8th Congress of the Workers' Party in Pyongyang, North Korea, Jan. 14, 2021. (KCNA via Reuters)
PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves during a ceremony for the 8th Congress of the Workers' Party in Pyongyang, North Korea, Jan. 14, 2021. (KCNA via Reuters)

While there are few details known about the new missile, a submarine expert in Seoul suggested that North Korea may have applied the Multiple Independent Targeted Reentry Missile technology, MIRV, to the new model.

"The newly presented SLBM Pukguksong 5's front section seems more spacious compared to the previous models, which may mean a secured space for the MIRV," Moon Keun-sik, a submarine expert at the Korea Defense and Security Forum, told ABC News. "SLBM technology is the pinnacle of nuclear weapons."

With state-of-the-art weapons, the KCNA report proclaimed the regime has become a "nuclear-weapon state and the world's greatest defense power."

"The regime wants to be recognized as a nuclear power by showing off its new strategic weapons, pressuring the international community to respond to their nuclear disarmament negotiations," Shin Beomchul, director of the Seoul-based Research Institute for Economy and Society, told ABC News.

Another expert also analyzed the military showcase as North Korea's effort to "attract attention" from the U.S. "North Korea wants to prove to the world that their nuclear arsenal development is no bluff. They came up with a bigger SLBM since they failed to attract much attention during the military parade last October," Cha Du Hyeogn, a visiting research fellow of the Asan Institute of Policy Studies, told ABC News.

It was the first time a military parade occurred in conjunction with a Party Congress. The parade is seen by North Korea watchers as a way for Kim Jong Un to consolidate his position as the general secretary of the Workers' Party in front of his people.

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"The embellished parade highlights the significance of this year's Workers' Party Congress where Kim Jong Un was appointed to a new position. The gig was aimed at proving to the public that their leader was capable of developing bigger and better weapons," Professor Yang Uk of Hannam University who teaches defense strategy, told ABC News.

PHOTO: TThis picture taken on Jan. 14, 2021, shows what appears to be submarine-launched ballistic missiles during a military parade celebrating the 8th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in Pyongyang. (KCNA via KNS/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: TThis picture taken on Jan. 14, 2021, shows what appears to be submarine-launched ballistic missiles during a military parade celebrating the 8th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in Pyongyang. (KCNA via KNS/AFP via Getty Images)

"The regime must have had no other choice than to emphasize strong weaponry in order to console the economically stiffened public since it is literally the only achievement during the last five years," Shin pointed out.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said through a statement Friday that it's analyzing the weapons displayed by North Korea, but did not provide further details.

Nuclear-powered submarines were just one of many advanced military assets on Kim's wish list during the congress, which also included longer-range intercontinental ballistic missiles that could potentially target the U.S. mainland more accurately, new tactical nuclear weapons and warheads, spy satellites and hypersonic weapons, according to The Associated Press.

It's unclear whether North Korea is fully capable of developing such systems. While the country is believed to have accumulated at least dozens of nuclear weapons, outside estimates of the exact status of its nuclear and missile program vary widely, the AP reported.

North Korea flaunts new weapons amid Washington, D.C., turmoil originally appeared on abcnews.go.com