South Korea repeated its call for North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons as Kim Jong Un’s regime displayed its military might in a parade marking the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War.
Soldiers paraded through Pyongyang this morning in celebration of North Korea’s self-declared victory in the war that left the peninsula divided, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. South Korean President Park Geun Hye invited about 4,000 war veterans and diplomats to mark the anniversary, expressing gratitude and respect to those who fought for the nation, according to a government statement.
“It’s time to end confrontation and hostility and make a new Korea Peninsula, opening an era of peace and hope,” Park said in a speech transcript posted on her office’s web site. “North Korea must give up nuclear development and allow changes to ensure their people’s living and freedom.”
Park said she will not tolerate any provocation that threatens people’s lives and property. North Korea must refrain from provocation and become a responsible member of the international community, she said.
About 10,000 soldiers, dancers and veterans marched, goose-stepping alongside mobile rocket launchers and tanks, as Kim reviewed the troops from Kim Il Sung Square, named for his grandfather who founded the communist regime, Yonhap News reported.
The three-year war killed 2.5 million people and ended in a stalemate, with the U.S. maintaining more than 40,000 troops in the South. Since the conflict, the South has eclipsed the North economically, while the North has become one of the world’s most politically isolated and impoverished nations as it pursues nuclear armament to counter the South’s alliance with the U.S.
Tensions on the peninsula escalated to the highest in years after Kim tested an atomic device in February and threatened pre-emptive nuclear strikes against the U.S. As relations soured, the North pulled its workers from the joint Gaeseong industrial park, shutting a site that provides Kim’s government with $100 million a year in hard currency.
Today’s parade caps more than two weeks of festivities in celebration of the leadership of former rulers and “great brilliant commanders” Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. This year’s Arirang games, where more than 100,000 synchronized dancers make mosaic displays with colored signs, was revamped to focus on commemorating the war.
Foreign guests including Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao and representatives from various overseas communist parties are attending the festivities in the North’s capital Pyongyang, KCNA reported.
In Seoul, about 200 kilometers south, Park today hosted envoys from the 16 countries that participated in the allied United Nations command, at a commemorative ceremony honoring the fallen soldiers.