North Korea Celebrates Armed Forces Anniversary Amid Nuclear Threats

On April 26th, 2022, a military parade took place to celebrate the 95th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army, the armed forces of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The event was filled with dramatic highlights such as massive fireworks displays and overflights of Su-25s and MiG-29s, both of which represent the most advanced aircraft that North Korea currently possesses. The anniversary parade was widely covered on North Korean television and in the written press with a focus on the exhibition of new and old missile systems that the country has devoted a massive amount of effort to developing in order to increase its deterrence capabilities.

These systems range from modernized multiple launch rocket systems to solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile systems such as the Hwasong-17 or Hwasongpho-17, which was believed to have been tested back in March and February of this year. Along with a showcase of their alleged hypersonic missile system which was announced as a goal during their eighth party congress in January 2021. These systems pose a serious threat to the region and in particular South Korea and Japan as well as the United States. The North Korean regime uses these events to frame and signal both domestically and abroad the goals and focus of the regime in the near future. This is done by the unveiling of new weapon systems as well as via speeches and statements made by the regime.

The Hwasongpho-17 is one of the new advances made in missile development by North Korea (KCNA Watch)

North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-Un, saluted and applauded the procession of modern-looking tanks, self-propelled guns, and seemingly unending rows of KPA personnel equipped with a wide variety of uniforms and small arms from the different eras of North Korean military history. The soldiers on procession in the parade conducted a walkthrough of the military history of the KPA, ranging from the guerrilla fighters who combated the Japanese occupation to veterans of the Korean War, and up to the modern-day.

This section of the parade focused on the ideological history of the KPA and KPRA marching with the colors of the “revolutionary struggle against “gangster-like Japanese imperialists’ one million-strong army.” Next in the procession were the forces of the Fatherland Liberation War which is the North Korean name of the Korean War in DPRK parlance, armed with Mosin-Nagant rifles anachronistic SKS rifles and outdated uniforms were followed by more modern forces. The first of which were the members of the Ministry of State Security in charge of keeping Kim Jong-un and his inner circle safe from harm. They were followed by other security forces with tracker dogs and emergency epidemic prevention workers bedecked in orange hazmat suits.

North Korean troops in Korean War-era uniforms lead the parade (DPRK state media)

Some of the other forces on display were the Anti-aircraft Artillery Corps, the 91st Corps, and the 3rd Corps of the KPA who are responsible for defending the capital, as well as the 105th Guards Tank Division and the 425th Motorized Infantry Division. All of these units were described in North Korean media as “full of the steadfast resolution to readily die a heroic death for the great commander who gives ever-lasting life with warm feeling, passion, love, and trust and teaches strategy of victory and exceptional bravery.”

KPA tanks of the 105th Guards Seoul Ryu Kyong-Su Armored Division on Parade (KCNA Watch)

One of the key parts of the anniversary parade was the speech given by Kim Jong-Un where he spoke at length on the advances made in areas of national defense by the North Korean defense industry and people, the most important part of the speech was where he singled out their nuclear forces for unique praise:  

“In particular, the nuclear forces, the symbol of our national strength and the core of our military power, should be strengthened in terms of both quality and scale, so that they can perform nuclear combat capabilities in any situations of warfare, according to purposes and missions of different operations and by various means,”  and “…will continue to take measures for further developing the nuclear forces of our state at the fastest possible speed.”  

An ‘elephant walk’ procession of North Korean aircraft was followed by flypast with the aircraft outlined by flurocent strips (DPRK state media)

The North Korean regime is one that has become skilled at manipulating the nations around them and forcing international attention onto themselves in order to extract concessions of some sort or another to enrich the regime and maintain the survival of Kim Jong-Un, his family, and their close inner circle. As the international community continues to deal with the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War and the COVID-19 pandemic, North Korea cannot afford to let itself slide into the background. Just yesterday North Korea carried out the latest in a string of missile tests which saw a ballistic missile fired into the sea off its Eastern coast. Last month Japan released images of an intercontinental ballistic missile which landed 150 kilometers west of Hokkaido’s Oshima Peninsula. The international community must prepare themselves for possible escalations from the North Korean regime as they try to cement their ability to influence the region and be committed to meeting these provocations with mutual assistance and cooperation.