South Korea yesterday urged the North to stick to agreements that bar armed clashes between the neighbors, in comments made a day after North Korea unveiled new strategic and tactical weapons at a predawn military parade.
The massive parade on the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea showed off new weapons, including what was possibly the North’s biggest-yet intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which was mounted on an 11-axle launch vehicle that was also seen for the first time.
The North also displayed a variety of solid-fuel weapon systems, including what could be an advanced version of its Pukguksong family of missiles designed to be fired from submarines or land mobile launchers.
South Korea’s presidential Blue House yesterday said it held an emergency meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the weapons and a speech by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“We emphasized various agreements made between the South and the North to prevent armed conflicts and war,” it said in a statement.
Although Kim vowed in his speech to continue building his military might, he said he hoped that the neighbors would hold hands again after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The parade and speech came as the neighbors are at odds over the killing last month of a South Korean fisheries official by the North’s troops after he went missing, an incident that shocked and enraged many in the South.
Seoul called for a joint investigation after finding that the soldiers killed the man and set his body on fire, although Pyongyang said they just burned a flotation device he was using.
The Blue House yesterday urged the North to respond to its request for an investigation.
In a separate statement, the South Korean Ministry of Unification, which handles cross-border affairs, said that Kim’s speech would lead to peace and better ties, and expressed hope for a resumption of dialogue on issues such as the shooting incident, cooperation over COVID-19 response and humanitarian aid.
However, the South Korean Ministry of Defense expressed concern about the North’s newly unveiled weapons, saying that it would conduct detailed analysis with the US.
The probable ICBM paraded on Saturday was clearly the new strategic weapon Kim had promised to show, said Melissa Hanham, deputy director of the Austria-based Open Nuclear Network.
“North Korea is pushing ahead with its nuclear strategy regardless of the tough year that it has had with regard to diplomatic talks, flooding from typhoons and COVID-19,” Hanham said in a telephone interview.
“I also think that this is a message to the United States — he [Kim] has already declared he no longer holds himself to the moratorium and he has something new as well he may wish to test,” she said.
The celebratory event, which began late on Friday, was not broadcast by North Korean state television until Saturday evening, when it aired a recorded broadcast.
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