State media says leader Kim Jong Un presided over the event, the third such parade in less than a year.North Korea has staged a military parade in Pyongyang to mark the country’s founding anniversary, state media said.
Leader Kim Jong Un attended the event commemorated in the early hours of Thursday, which was held at Kim Il Sung square in the capital, Pyongyang, KCNA said.
The parade would be the nuclear-armed nation’s third such display in less than a year.
Pyongyang has continued to pursue its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes – for which it is internationally sanctioned – during the diplomatic engagement of recent years and has used such events to show off its latest missile developments.
“There are signs of the North having staged a parade”, an official of South Korea’s defence ministry told the AFP news agency.
It was not immediately clear what military systems were included in the parade.
“We are closely monitoring the situation,” the official added. “More details require further analysis.”
Last October, Kim unveiled previously unseen intercontinental ballistic missiles in a predawn military parade that showcased the country’s long-range weapons for the first time in two years.
Another night-time military parade was held in January.
A submarine-launched ballistic missile that KCNA described as the “world’s most powerful weapon” was the centrepiece of that event, which took place days before Joe Biden’s inauguration as US president.
Specialist website NK News cited sources in Pyongyang as saying that fireworks went off in the city centre about midnight and again at 1am (16:00 GMT) and jets were heard flying overhead, both of them consistent with a parade taking place.
Thursday is the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as the North is officially known.
North Korean state media had not released images of the parade by mid-morning.
Analysts said Pyongyang was looking to use the parade to send a “message to the international community” without risking escalation, said Hong Min, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul.
“The only other way to show off their strategic weapons is to launch them, which carries the risk of sparking protest and further international sanctions,” he told AFP.
“The North must have felt a need to apply pressure to the US to come to the negotiating table” on its terms, he added.
Nuclear talks with the United States have been at a standstill since the collapse of the Hanoi summit between Kim and then-US President Donald Trump over sanctions relief and what North Korea would be willing to give up in return.
The Biden administration has promised a “practical, calibrated approach”, including diplomatic efforts, to persuade the impoverished North to give up its banned weapons programmes.
Last month, the UN atomic agency (IAEA) said Pyongyang appeared to have started its plutonium-producing reprocessing reactor at Yongbyon, calling it a “deeply troubling” development, and Kim’s sister and key adviser Kim Yo Jong demanded the withdrawal of US troops from the peninsula.
At the same time, North Korea is struggling under a self-imposed coronavirus blockade, having closed its borders to protect against the spread of COVID-19, which first emerged in neighbouring China.
Domestically the parade was an opportunity to shore up morale and “mass solidarity for the regime”, Hong Min added.
“Taking place in the dead of night, it gives the public something to enjoy and watch with fireworks, air shows and displays of advanced weapons.”