News / USA

North Korea Stages Display of Military Might to Mark Key Anniversary

Heir apparent Kim Jong Un appears at event.

In this image made from KRT footage distributed by APTN, participants perform during a huge military parade marking the 65th anniversary of the founding of North Korea's Workers' Party, 10 Oct 2010, in Pyongyang
In this image made from KRT footage distributed by APTN, participants perform during a huge military parade marking the 65th anniversary of the founding of North Korea's Workers' Party, 10 Oct 2010, in Pyongyang

North Korea displayed its military might with a huge parade Sunday to mark the 65th anniversary of the country's only political party.

Heir apparent Kim Jong Un appeared with his father, absolute leader Kim Jong Il. With the event aired live on national television, North Koreans received their first extended look at the young man selected to be their next leader.

A huge cheer erupted in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square when Kim Jong Il emerged to review the massive military

The rare, live broadcast showed thousands of soldiers briskly goose-stepping past the reviewing stand. They saluted Kim Jong Il, who was flanked by his youngest son and recently named 4-star general, Kim Jong Un. But the heir apparent was not in military uniform. He wore a black communist-style suit, bearing a striking resemblance to his grandfather, Kim Il Sung.

The huge display of military force demonstrated not only North Korea's defensive resolve despite its poverty. It can also be seen as clearly signaling to its citizens and the rest of the world that the elder Mr. Kim, reported to be in declining health in recent years, intends to pass rule to his youngest son, who is believed to be about 27 years of age.

The parade also featured tanks and large trucks bearing rockets and missiles rumbling through the central square.

Before the soldiers began marching, the army's chief of General Staff, Vice Marshal Ri Yong Ho, said if the country's sovereignty is infringed, even slightly, by what he termed "the U.S. imperialists and their followers," North Korea will strike by using all of its physical resources, including its nuclear weapons.

The event included frequent homages to Kim Jong Il. Vice Marshal Ri concluded his speech Sunday wishing Mr. Kim a long life.

No mention was made of Mr. Kim's third son and heir apparent, despite his prominent presence at the high-profile event.

At last month's Workers' Party convention, Kim Jong Un, who previously held no known positions, was named vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission and also given a top party post.

Numerous defectors from North Korea who have fled to the South say the average person in their homeland cares little about the succession because they are just focused on finding enough to eat.

The most prominent defector, Hwang Jang-yop, was found dead Sunday in his South Korean residence. Police say the 87-year-old apparently died of a heart attack.  There was no sign of a break-in at his guarded home.

The South Korean National Intelligence Service, six months ago, arrested what it described as two North Korean agents planning to assassinate Hwang. The YTN network says intelligence officials are investigating the circumstances of Hwang's death. He was the architect of Pyongyang's self-reliance ideology, Juche, and a former secretary of the Worker's Party.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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