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N Korea at crossroads

North Korea keeps ICBMs out of sight at 70th anniversary parade

Kim signals commitment to nuclear talks with US and close China ties at event

SEOUL -- North Korea on Sept. 9 celebrated the 70th anniversary of its founding with a military parade but kept its intercontinental ballistic missiles under wraps, apparently signaling its commitment to denuclearization talks with the U.S.

Tens of thousands of soldiers -- men and women -- marched in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square with tanks and other weapons as young leader Kim Jong Un looked on and applauded. 

Kim marked the anniversary by praising the ruling party's leadership. He did not mention of the denuclearization talks with the U.S. 

"Our country's socialism was established by the independent policy and wise leadership of the Workers' Party of Korea. The people are the true lords of our country, and their wishes are coming true to the utmost," Kim was quoted as saying by North Korea's state-owned Rodong Shinmun newspaper. 

In the morning Kim paid tribute to his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather, Kim Il Sung, the country's founder, at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang, where their embalmed bodies are kept, the Korea Central News Agency, the government's mouthpiece broadcaster, reported. 

Analysts said the decision not to display the ICBMs, which are believed to be capable of targeting the U.S. mainland, was Kim's way of showing he wants positive relations with Washington. Back in February, the ICBMs were rolled out for a parade marking the army's 70th anniversary.

"The absence of ICBMs is North Korea's clear message to the U.S. that the country is willing to keep the dialogue momentum," said Lee Geun, an international relations professor at Seoul National University's Graduate School of International Studies.

Negotiations on denuclearization have been stalled for three months, since the historic summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore. The U.S. is demanding Pyongyang submit a list of its nuclear weapons and facilities, while North Korea says a formal declaration of the end of the Korean War should come first.

China made its presence felt at the parade by sending Li Zhanshu, the Communist Party's third-highest-ranking official. President Xi Jinping, however, did not attend, likely to avoid fresh accusations from Trump that Beijing is interfering with the nuclear talks. Kim highlighted his friendship with China by raising Li's hand at the event. The two stood together, waving at the troops. 

"Xi's decision not to go was surely out of consideration for the U.S.," Lee said.

North Korea plans to perform its new large-scale mass game titled "Shining Fatherland" at the Rungrado May Day Stadium in Pyongyang in the evening for the first time in five years. The propaganda show features the country’s scientific developments by adopting media arts technology, according to the state-run Koryo Tours.

Kim is set to host South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang for three days, starting Sept. 18. Their talks are expected to focus on breaking the stalemate over the denuclearization of the peninsula.

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