North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Picture: KCNA/REUTERS
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Picture: KCNA/REUTERS

Kim Jong Un showed off his varied arsenal of missiles designed to frustrate US defence systems, in a rare display that appeared to be the North Korean leader’s latest effort to break a diplomatic stalemate over his nuclear programme. 

Blaming the US for “creating regional tension with wrong decisions and action”, Kim vowed at a defence forum Monday to keep expanding his nuclear weapons programme, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

Photographs of the Self-Defence 2021 gathering released by state media showed Kim speaking in a large hall flanked by missiles, including at least two previously seen intercontinental ballistic missiles and a weapon similar to the “hypersonic” glider debuted last month. 

The unusual indoor display of military might came a day after the anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, an occasion when Kim’s regime has often paraded new weaponry through Pyongyang. One of the two ICBMs featured in the hall with Kim — the world’s largest such road-mobile rocket — was revealed at a military parade to mark the same holiday last year. 

The event once again demonstrated Kim’s flair for surprising observers by breaking with routine and tradition. The absence of any parade preparations this year had fuelled speculation that North Korea might let the holiday pass without provocations.

Kim called Monday’s indoor event a “striking manifestation of the state power as important as a large-scale military parade”, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

Allied intelligence authorities were analysing the weapons displayed, a South Korean defence ministry spokesperson told a regular news briefing Tuesday in Seoul.

Kim also continued his regime’s recent trend of trying to project strength towards the US while signalling openness to South Korea’s peace overtures before President Moon Jae-in leaves office next year. The strategy appeared designed to leverage Moon’s desire to cement his legacy with a peace deal to either secure sanctions relief or drive wedge between South Korea and the US.

The US and North Korea have been locked in a stalemate over his nuclear programme, since former President Donald Trump rejected Kim’s demands for relief from international sanctions in 2019. Though Kim accused Seoul of being “hypocritical” for attempting to boost its own military capabilities, he said his weapons were not aimed at South Korea. 

“Our enemy is war itself, not a certain country or forces like South Korea and the US,” Kim said, according to state media. “But our external efforts for peace does not in any way mean giving up our rights to self-defence.”

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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