North Korean leader Kim Jong-un waved to troops marching through central Pyongyang yesterday to mark the nation’s 65th birthday, but made no public comments before leaving the lavish event.
Flanked by generals and senior government officials, Kim stood in a high viewing area well above and away from the sea of onlookers, who cheered and held up colorful placards in unison as the troops filed passed.
North Korea watchers had hoped the young leader might address the crowd to shed some light on the isolated and secretive nation’s politics or diplomatic goals.
The military parade in Kim Ilsung Square featured mostly reserve troops and did not include displays of the kind of heavy artillery, tanks and missiles that the North rolled out in July to commemorate the armistice that ended hostilities on the Korean Peninsula in 1953.
Kim made no remarks at the July parade either.
The North has recently shown an increasing willingness to engage in talks with South Korea, including efforts to reopen a joint industrial complex and allow reunions of families separated by the 1950 to 1953 Korean War, but it has also taken something of a hard line with Washington.
It canceled at the last minute the visit of a senior US official who had hoped to win the release of a US missionary sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in the North’s prison system and has stepped up criticism of the US’ military presence in the South.
The North claims it withdrew the invitation to the US official because Washington spoiled the atmosphere for talks by deploying nuclear-capable bombers for drills that were recently held with South Korea.
However, soon after denying the official visit, Kim played host to former NBA star Dennis Rodman.
Before arriving in North Korea, Rodman said he had no intention of being a diplomat and was going simply to hang out with Kim, whom he has said is a good friend.
After the visit, Rodman said Kim has a baby daughter named Ju-ae and is a “good dad.”
He told the Guardian newspaper that he had spent a “relaxing time by the sea” with the leader’s family, during his five-day trip.
“I held their baby, Ju-ae, and spoke with [Kim’s wife, Ri Sol-ju] as well. He’s a good dad and has a beautiful family,” Rodman said.
While more of a public personality than his introverted father, former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, ever was, little is known about the ruler’s personal life. Even his age is a matter of dispute.
A child watch began after state TV images last year showed his wife looking heavily pregnant.