Pyongyang displays previously unseen intercontinental ballistic missiles at an unprecedented pre-dawn military parade to mark 75th anniversary of ruling Workers' Party.
North Korea has displayed a gigantic new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) that analysts described as the biggest of its kind in the world, as the nuclear-armed country defied the coronavirus threat with thousands of maskless troops taking part in a military parade.
The ICBM, carried on a transporter-erector-launcher with no fewer than 11 axles, rolled through Kim il-Sung square as leader Kim Jong-un watched from a rostrum, footage from state broadcaster KCTV showed.
"This missile is a monster," said Melissa Hanham, deputy director of the Open Nuclear Network.
Several analysts described it as the largest road-mobile liquid-fuelled missile anywhere, with Harry Kazianis of the Center for the National Interest saying it was "much bigger and clearly more powerful than anything in the DPRK's arsenal.”
Nuclear negotiations with US
Nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington have been deadlocked since the collapse of the Hanoi summit early last year and the North is widely believed to have continued to develop its weapons throughout the diplomatic process.
It already launched a missile with the range to reach anywhere in the continental US in 2017, but analysts suggested the new weapon — based on that rocket — could have multiple re-entry vehicle capabilities, helping it evade US defences.
"It's a scary prospect for the already underperforming US missile defence system," Melissa Hanham of the Open Nuclear Network said.
The missile could see its first test around the time of the inauguration of the next US presidential term, as a signal to either Donald Trump or Joe Biden.
The ICBM was preceded earlier by the Pukguksong-4a, a new submarine-launched missile that would add another dimension to Pyongyang's arsenal, which it says it needs to deter a US invasion.
Anniversary of the ruling party
Kim — wearing a grey suit — told the crowd Pyongyang "will continue to strengthen the war deterrent, the righteous self-defence means."
"If we don't have our own strength, the only thing we have to do is to wipe the streaming tears and blood though our fists are clenched," he added.
Women in the crowd wiped tears from their eyes as he spoke, the footage showed.
The widely anticipated display was part of commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the North's ruling Workers' Party, and according to Seoul's joint chiefs of staff took place early on Saturday, several hours before it was broadcast.
South Korean and US intelligence agencies were "closely tracking the event,” they added.
Analysts say Pyongyang will still tread carefully to avoid jeopardising its chances with Washington ahead of next month's presidential election.
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, cautioned that it was not yet clear how much of the equipment on show "really works".
But he added: "Politics of deception notwithstanding, the weapons featured in Pyongyang's processions are a sobering reminder that North Korea will not be ignored."