As legions of North Korean soldiers and columns of tanks and vehicles marched in perfect synchronization Sunday saluting supreme leader Kim Jong Un one might be initially inclined to regard the scene indicative of a Korea that remains ready and determined to face the US and her global allies in open combat.
However, the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the official birth of the nation under the leadership of Kim’s deceased grandfather and, by all rights, Korean demigod, Kim Il-Sung, wasn’t the tiny peninsular nation mustering for war despite the appearances.
In fact, the events showed some markedly positive signs reinforcing a North Korean desire to at least attempt peaceful resolution.
The Korean Regime as always clearly and precisely coordinated each aspect of the celebrations, including key signals and symbolism meant to reassure the outside world, which still faces a daunting iron curtain in terms of information escaping the nation, that Kim is serious about continuing negotiations.
While there’s no reason to assume lasting peace is firmly achieved (or even near) absent tangible actions by all sides, it's undoubtedly positive to see the Kim Regime at least appears invested. So, without further ado, here are some key details from Sunday that have experts abuzz.
1. Kim kept the missiles tucked away: The climax of the Korean Regimes military parades for years now has been the unveiling of their latest ballistic missile technology rolling in formation atop mobile launchers. For both the Regime and the watching world, these were the ‘big show’ of Korea’s genuine capacity to ignite thermonuclear war. But notably this time they were completely absent, neither included in the march nor on display at the various venues for massive shows and celebrations as has been common in the past.
2. There was English! (and Chinese): Unless it’s come in the form of saber rattling the language of Western Imperialism (as well as to a lesser degree the language of… older Chinese Imperialism) is explicitly not used around the country, let alone featured by the Regime on massive stadium signs. But that’s what happened Sunday as scores of Koreans could be seen hoisting huge banners in both languages by the limited press while Kim observed an army of gymnastics athletes perform on the field.
3. Kim did not fuel the fires: Its essentially tradition at this point unless the leader is markedly unwell (something left to guesswork as opposed to a press release) for the Supreme Ruler to issue a stirring declaration of North Korea’s iron will to swathes of cheering soldiers and civilians. Usually here is where we would find Un threatening the destruction of the US, Japan, etc. with fiery boasts of military power, and more importantly to the US, reach. However, this time Un did not pull any such stunts, instead happily hoisting the hand of China’s envoy seated next to him; an envoy likely registering these same major signs for a report for China’s President Xi a less than amicable ally of the rogue state these days thanks to increasing American pressure.
While US President Donald Trump has received vitriol from multiple fronts over his attempts to breach the gap with Kim at their recent historic face to face summit for bringing the Kim regime legitimacy, it at least appears the North Koreans are willing to continue to process. This especially holds true when considering the separate but perhaps more vital meetings between Kim and South Korean President Moon (something Moon notably credits Trump for helping bring about) that ran, and will run, in parallel to the US talks.
The fates of all three countries, and likely China, are intertwined.
With the Korean states agreeing to move towards an official peace treaty, the US has firmly asserted that will only happen with complete Korean denuclearization; something the North Koreans, in turn, have declared will only come with the total departure of US forces.
Clearly there’s serious work ahead as leaders from the multiple states seek out a compromise, but spirits are high. South Korean President Moon is right in his declaration that now is a “time of bold decisions” to truly and finally put an end to the last cold war era conflict.