North Korea on Sunday (Sept. 9) celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the state under the leadership of Kim Il Sung, grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un.
Last year, the anniversary—which is marked with a military parade as so many of North Korea’s important occasions are—was preceded by the country testing its most powerful nuclear weapon yet. And a parade in April last year to mark the birthday of the founding leader featured what appeared to be intercontinental ballistic missiles. So, in the wake of two inter-Korean summits and a landmark meeting in June between Kim and president Donald Trump, North Korea watchers were looking to the weaponry and other displays at the parade for symbolic messages—and they seem to have found them.
Analysts suggested the missing long-range missiles, and floats honoring the inter-Korean summits and economic development are a sign Kim is trying to signal Trump that he does want to work toward peace, amid skepticism about his intentions in the wake of the June summit. In the months since then, satellites picked up activity that appears to show that nuclear research and development are continuing. Last month, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo canceled a trip to North Korea citing insufficient progress.
Still, the two Koreas are headed for a third summit later this month, and South Korean officials said last week Kim has pledged to denuclearize his country by the end of Trump’s first term. Kim has also sent a letter to Trump, which Trump has said he is looking forward to receiving. Trump also noted in a tweet the absence of missiles at the parade.
The parade still featured lots of military hardware, including short-range rocket launchers. And some tanks still bore anti-American slogans, according to NK News.
There were also goose-stepping soldiers, dancers in pastel-colored clothing, drummers, and floats marking industrial developments and the inter-Korean summit. The audience included a top Communist Party member sent on behalf of Chinese president Xi Jinping, the speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament, and French actor Gerard Depardieu.
The anniversary is also a moment when Pyongyang invites foreign correspondents—about 130 this time—to cover the celebration and take government-organized tours of the capital. While tightly controlled and carefully choreographed, the visit does offer a chance for photographers to capture an updated look at life in the country, including a few shots that look like fairly unscripted moments, from a mother carrying her child across a street to a man painting his house.