In A Break From Recent Precedent, North Korean Anniversary Parade Features No ICBMs NPR's Mary Louise Kelly says of Sunday's parade, "If you were trying to decipher the messaging, it was maybe an effort not to antagonize."
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In A Break From Recent Precedent, North Korean Anniversary Parade Features No ICBMs

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In A Break From Recent Precedent, North Korean Anniversary Parade Features No ICBMs

In A Break From Recent Precedent, North Korean Anniversary Parade Features No ICBMs

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/646018012/646018013" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

There are parades, and then there are parades. In Pyongyang today, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, in attendance, they laid on quite a show. NPR's Mary Louise Kelly was there.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: This is Kim Il Sung Square. We're in central Pyongyang. We are awaiting the start of a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea, awaiting the arrival of Kim Jong Un who's expected to address the crowd in this square, which, of course, is named for his grandfather, who came to power in 1948. You can see around me balloons in the air, all sorts of photographers swarming the roofs around us, trying to capture this action as we await the arrival of Kim Jong Un on this anniversary celebration kicking off.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARCHING BAND PLAYING)

KELLY: And kick off it did. More than two hours of pageantry.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARCHING BAND PLAYING)

KELLY: Bands and fireworks and tanks and a North Korean specialty...

(SOUNDBITE OF SOLDIERS GOOSE-STEPPING)

KELLY: ...Goose-stepping.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOLDIERS GOOSE-STEPPING)

KELLY: By some standards, this parade was actually restrained - no ICBMs - intercontinental ballistic missiles - no direct references to North Korea's nuclear weapons - both of which have appeared in previous parades here. Instead, wave after wave of soldiers but also civilians waving fake cherry blossoms. If you were trying to decipher the messaging, it was maybe an effort not to antagonize - three months after Kim's summit with President Trump and as U.S.-North Korea relations appear stalled.

(SOUNDBTIE OF MARCHING BAND PLAYING)

KELLY: Kim Jong Un has just arrived in the square. I think he's assumed a position up in that top balcony, overlooking events.

He did not, in fact, address the crowd, a break with recent precedent. He strolled a balcony high above us, both arms up, waving.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Kim Jong Un. Kim Jong Un.

KELLY: Kim presides over a small country with a small economy, which has been further crippled by sanctions. He's made a point recently of saying he wants to focus on that - on building the economy, a message that, at least here in Pyongyang, seems to resonate.

It's a clear show of force and a clear show of deference to Kim Jong Un, who came to power young, untested in 2011. He presides today over the square named for his grandfather. Mary Louise Kelly, NPR News, on Kim Il Sung Square in the middle of a military parade in Pyongyang.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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