North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has vowed to boost the country's nuclear weapons programme in preparation for “all kinds of crises” while overseeing a huge military parade that displayed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and other weapons.
Addressing the parade in Pyongyang to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Revolutionary Army, Kim hailed the country's nuclear weapons as "a symbol of national power", stressing that they should be diversified.
"We will continue to take steps to strengthen and develop our nation's nuclear capabilities at the fastest pace," Kim told the high-profile military parade held at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
"In preparation for the turbulent political and military situation and all kinds of crises in the future... we will further increase our nuclear force at the highest possible speed," he added.
North Korea has been reeling under crippling international sanctions over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development activities, which it maintains are designed to deter potential aggression by the US and its allies, including South Korea, who frequently hold joint military drills and weapon tests on the Korean Peninsula.
Pyongyang has carried out more than a dozen weapons tests this year, including the much-publicized launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at the full range for the first time since 2017.
Kim in his remarks asserted that the primary role of his country's nuclear arsenal was to act as a deterrent while adding that they "cannot be bound to only one mission".
"The nuclear force of the Republic must be ready to exercise its responsible mission and unique deterrence anytime," he said. "If any force seeks to intrude on the fundamental interests of our nation, our nuclear forces will be forced to unexpectedly carry out their second mission."
The military parade featured paratroopers, displays of the country's largest and most powerful missiles, and thousands of troops marching together, according to KCNA.
The parade also displayed hypersonic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), according to photos released by North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper.
However, the highlight was Hwasong-17, North Korea's largest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tested successfully last month, which was also put on display.
"The spectators raised loud cheers, greatly excited to see the giant ICBM Hwasongpho-17 which soared into the sky on March 24," KCNA reported.
Ahead of the military parade, state media urged the country’s citizens and the armed forces to pledge their allegiance to Kim.
“We must more thoroughly establish the revolutionary discipline and order, in which the party, nation and the people move in unity under the leadership of the central party with the ideologies and intentions of our respected and beloved general secretary boiling within our hearts,” it said.
Last year, Kim announced a new five-year plan for developing weapons and issued an ambitious program that included hypersonic weapons, spy satellites, solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles, and submarine-launched nuclear missiles.
Pyongyang has stepped up weapons tests after pausing them when Kim and then US President Donald Trump engaged in a bout of diplomacy that collapsed in 2019.
In the latest weapons test earlier this month, North Korea tested a new-type tactical guided weapon, which the state media described as “of great significance in drastically improving the firepower of the frontline long-range artillery units and enhancing the efficiency in the operation of tactical nukes".
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