Thousands of North Koreans gather for huge pro-military rally

Thousands of North Koreans gather for huge rally pledging their support for Kim Jong Un’s plans to expand its military

  • Citizens held banners and wore face masks as they assembled in Pyongyang’s Kim Il-sung square
  • Follows ruling party’s first Workers’ Party Congress in five years, where Kim Jong Un underlined need for new five-year plan to develop economy
  • In decade since Kim took power, North Korea has seen rapid progress in its military technology at the cost of international sanctions

Thousands of North Koreans gathered at a rally to pledge their support for Kim Jong Un’s plans to expand the nation’s military.

Citizens of the pariah state – said to include factory and office workers, farmers and students – held banners and wore face masks as they assembled in Pyongyang’s Kim Il-sung square on Wednesday.

The show of unity for the regime, where non-compliance can have severe consequences, came in the wake of the ruling party’s first Workers’ Party Congress in five years, during which Kim underlined the need for a new five-year plan to develop the economy. 

In the decade since he took power, North Korea has seen rapid progress in its military technology at the cost of international sanctions.

Despite severe economic difficulties during the coronavirus pandemic, Kim said last week the country would continue to build up its military capabilities.

During the plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party, Kim repeated his vows to boost his country’s military capacity and ordered the production of more powerful, sophisticated weapons systems. 

Thousands of North Koreans gathered at a rally to pledge their support for Kim Jong Un’s plans to expand the nation’s military

Citizens of the pariah state – said to include factory and office workers, farmers and students – held banners and wore face masks as they assembled in Pyongyang’s Kim Il-sung square on Wednesday

The show of unity – where non-compliance can lead to incarceration – came in the wake of the ruling party’s first Workers’ Party Congress in five years, during which Kim underlined the need for a new five-year plan to develop the economy

In the decade since Kim took power, North Korea has seen rapid progress in its military technology at the cost of international sanctions

Above, Kim’s supporters gather en masse. Despite severe economic difficulties during the coronavirus pandemic, Kim said last week the country would continue to build up its military capabilities

Citizens of the famine-hit state march through Pyongyang City earlier this week in matching pink outfits

During the plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party, Kim repeated his vows to boost his country’s military capacity and ordered the production of more powerful, sophisticated weapons systems

It comes as North Korea fired what it claims was its second ‘hypersonic missile’ after joining the global race to develop the ‘new generation’ of weapons – which are designed to dodge anti-missile defence systems.

According to state media KCNA, the missile, launched on Wednesday, managed to hit its target some 430 miles away. 

However, on Friday, South Korea dismissed North Korea’s claim as an exaggeration, saying it was a normal ballistic missile that could be intercepted. The assessment is certain to anger North Korea.

South Korea has previously avoided publicly disputing North Korea’s weapons tests, apparently so as not to aggravate relations.

South Korea’s Defence Ministry said it believes North Korea has not acquired the technologies needed to launch a hypersonic weapon.

Kim Jong Un is pictured at the first of day of the 8th Congress of the Workers’ Party. During a key meeting, he spoke about building up defences but did not mention the United States at all

North Korea recently fired what it claims was its second ‘hypersonic missile’ (above). According to state media KCNA, the missile, launched on Wednesday, managed to hit its target some 430 miles away. However, on Friday, South Korea dismissed North Korea’s claim as an exaggeration, saying it was a normal ballistic missile that could be intercepted

North Korea is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, which have progressed rapidly under Kim

The worsening economic situation during the pandemic has not blunted North Korea’s military programmes, and it has continued to pursue weapons development, a UN report said in October

Workers gather in a show of support in Pyongyang. The United States has repeatedly declared its willingness to meet North Korean representatives, while saying it will seek denuclearisation

It said in a report that what North Korea fired on Wednesday was a type of ballistic missile that was displayed in October during a weapons exhibition in Pyongyang, its capital.

It said South Korean and US forces could shoot it down.

The ministry said North Korea’s claim that the weapon flew 700 kilometres (435 miles) and manoeuvred laterally appeared to be an exaggeration.

Ministry officials said the claim was likely to have been aimed at a domestic audience to boost public confidence in its missile programme.

In 2021, nuclear-armed North Korea said it successfully tested a new type of submarine-launched ballistic missile, a long-range cruise missile, a train-launched weapon, and what it described as a hypersonic warhead.

The dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang remains stalled, following the collapse of talks between Kim and then-president Donald Trump in 2019.

Under Trump’s successor Joe Biden, the United States has repeatedly declared its willingness to meet North Korean representatives, while saying it will seek denuclearisation.

But Pyongyang has so far dismissed the offer, accusing Washington of pursuing ‘hostile’ policies.

At the end of a key meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party last week, where Kim spoke about building up defences, he did not mention the United States at all.

Instead of the policy positions on diplomacy for which Kim’s New Year statements have been closely watched in recent years, he focused on food security and development in an extensive speech.

Last month, Kim marked ten years in power. Since assuming control after his father and longtime ruler Kim Jong Il’s death in December 2011, Kim Jong Un has established absolute power at home. (Above, the latest Workers’ Party Congress in Pyongyang)

But he said Pyongyang would continue to boost its capabilities keeping in mind ‘the military environment of the Korean peninsula’ and the changing international situation.

North Korea is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, which have progressed rapidly under Kim.

The impoverished nation has also been under a rigid self-imposed coronavirus blockade that has hammered its economy.

The worsening economic situation during the pandemic, however, has not blunted those programmes, and North Korea has continued to pursue weapons development, a UN report said in October.

Concerns have grown about a full-blown food crisis in North Korea, and a United Nations human rights expert warned in October that the most vulnerable were ‘at risk of starvation’.

Last month, Kim marked ten years in power. Since assuming control after his father and longtime ruler Kim Jong Il’s death in December 2011, Kim Jong Un has established absolute power at home and bolstered his nuclear and missile arsenals. 

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