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People perform during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC13FDB8A790
Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
Toned down.
CONSPICUOUS BY ABSENCE

Photos: North Korea’s military parade for its 70th birthday sent Trump a signal

Tripti Lahiri
By Tripti Lahiri

Asia bureau chief

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.

Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
Soldiers riding a multiple-rocket launcher during the parade.

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.

Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
Soldiers marching in Sunday’s military parade.

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.

Morning fog blankets Pyongyang.
Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
A woman carries her daughter as she waits to cross a street.
Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
Two women at a cosmetics factory that foreign reporters stopped at during a government-organized visit.
Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
Students at a teachers’ training college use VR glasses during a government-organized visit.
Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
A man paints his house in Pyongyang.
Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
A man on a bus in Pyongyang.
Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
Pyongyang’s Juche Tower and May Day stadium are lit up on the occasion.
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