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North Korean display of military might aims to strike fear

| Saturday, July 27, 2013, 8:51 p.m.
Military tanks parade through the Kim Il Sung Square, Saturday, July 27, 2013 during a mass military parade celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in Pyongyang, North Korea.

PYONGYANG, North Korea — Goose-stepping soldiers, columns of tanks and a broad array of ominous-looking missiles poised on mobile launchers paraded through Pyongyang's main square on Saturday in a painstakingly choreographed military pageant intended to strike fear into North Korea's adversaries and rally its people behind young ruler Kim Jong Un on the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War.

The lavish assembly of weapons and troops is reminiscent of the marches held by the Soviet Union and China at the height of the Cold War. It is one of the few chances the world gets to see North Korea's military up close. Although Pyongyang frequently uses the occasion to reveal new, though not always operational, hardware, there didn't appear to be any new weapons in Saturday's parade. Its arsenal of missiles, however, was front-and-center.

Overlooking a sea of spectators mobilized in Kim Il Sung Square to cheer and wave flags, leader Kim Jong Un saluted his troops from a review stand. He was flanked by senior military officials, the chests of their olive green and white uniforms laden with medals. As fighter jets screamed overhead, a relaxed-looking Kim smiled and talked with China's vice president. China fought with North Korea during the war and is Pyongyang's only major ally and a crucial source of economic aid. Kim did not make a speech.

The parade marked a holiday the North Koreans call “Victory Day in the Fatherland Liberation War,” though the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce and the Korean Peninsula remains technically at war.

Choe Ryong Hae, the army's top political officer, said North Korea should be ready to fight to defend the stability the country needs to revive the economy. But his speech at Kim Il Sung Square was mild compared with past fiery rhetoric from Pyongyang attacking the United States and South Korea.

Meanwhile, in South Korea, President Park Geun-hye vowed not to tolerate provocations from North Korea — Seoul says North Korean attacks in 2010 killed 50 South Koreans — but she also said Seoul would work on building trust with the North. “I urge North Korea to give up the development of nuclear weapons if the country is to start on a path toward true change and progress,” Park said in a speech.

North Korea is estimated to have a handful of crude nuclear bombs, but many analysts don't think it has yet mastered the technology needed to build warheads small enough to fit on long-range missiles.

About 200 people gathered in Seoul, some burning pictures of the North's ruling Kim dynasty, at a rally meant “to condemn the nuclear development and threatening strategy of the tyrannical regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un,” said Park Chan-sung, an anti-North Korea activist.

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