North Koreans at mass rally vow to ‘pulverise the American empire’

Pyongyang residents gather in the May Day stadium for the first mass gathering of its kind since 2017
Pyongyang residents gather in the May Day stadium for the first mass gathering of its kind since 2017 - KIM WON JIN/AFP

North Koreans carried banners vowing to “pulverise the American empire” at mass rallies held to mark the 73rd anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War.

More than 120,000 people took part in gatherings held across the capital, reported the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Photographs released by state media showed a packed May Day stadium, with thousands carrying placards denouncing the US and vowing a “war of revenge”.

The event was the largest mass gathering of its kind since 2017, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs.

North Korea rallies
State media claims 120,000 people were at rallies in Pyongyang - Getty

“Let us make the US imperialists pay dearly for the blood shed by the Korean nation!” read one sign.

Others described the US as “the chieftain of war and massacre”, called for the country’s “merciless annihilation”, and described it as a “destroyer of peace”.

The three-year Korean war – which technically remains an active conflict as it ended in a truce in 1953, rather than a peace treaty – left approximately three million people dead and North and South Korea divided.

The conflict began with a surprise invasion by North Korean forces, but Pyongyang has historically accused the US of provoking the war and in recent months has ramped up verbal threats and weapons testing amid spiralling tensions with Washington.

Since the start of 2022, the nuclear-armed North has test-fired roughly 100 missiles of various ranges, many of which place the US mainland, South Korea or Japan within striking distance.

KCNA published photos of a full stadium
KCNA published photos of a full stadium - KCNA/Reuters

On Sunday, banners displayed by North Koreans across Pyongyang insisted the country now has “the strongest absolute weapon to punish the US imperialists and the war deterrence for self-defence which no enemy dare provoke”.

In a separate foreign ministry report, the North Korean government headed by Kim Jong-un claimed Washington was “making desperate efforts to ignite a nuclear war” and accused the US of sending strategic assets to the region.

Amid the war of words, there are no signs that Kim has any intention to return to disarmament talks with the US that fell apart four years ago under Donald Trump, the former president.

His government is also ramping up efforts to launch its first military spy satellite in orbit, following a failed attempt in May.

Earlier this month, top officials called the setback “the most serious” shortcoming of the year so far, and harshly criticised those responsible.

Meanwhile in South Korea, a North-Korean defector-turned-activist launched a new attempt over the weekend to counter the North’s narrative that the US was responsible for the outbreak of the Korean war.

North Koreans hold anti-US propaganda placards at the rally in Pyongyang
North Koreans hold anti-US propaganda placards at the rally in Pyongyang - KCNA via Reuters

According to the Associated Press, Park Sang-hak flew balloons carrying around 200,000 anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets and Covid-19 medical supplies across the border on Sunday evening.

The North, which has often reacted angrily to the activist’s years-long campaign, has not yet commented on the leaflets – which highlighted that Kim’s grandfather, Kim II Sung, was responsible for starting the conflict.

The 26 million people living in North Korea have become increasingly isolated and tightly controlled since the government sealed borders and restricted imports when the coronavirus pandemic descended in 2020.

As critical supplies have been cut out, food is becoming increasingly scarce – recent BBC reporting found people are already starving to death.

Some experts have warned that the country could be on the brink of a disaster similar to the famine in the late 1990s, where at least one million people died.

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