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N Korea at crossroads

North Korea puts hazmat suits on parade for national day, but no missiles

Kim Jong Un attends military event to celebrate 73rd anniversary of foundation

SEOUL (Reuters) -- North Korea celebrated the 73rd anniversary of its foundation with a night time military parade, state media reported on Thursday, publishing photographs of marching rows of personnel in orange hazmat suits but no ballistic missiles.

Kim Jong Un, the leader of the reclusive state, attended the event as paramilitary and public security forces began marching at the Kim Il Sung square in the capital Pyongyang at midnight Wednesday, the official KCNA news agency said.

Rodong Sinmun, the ruling Worker's Party's newspaper, published photographs of people in orange hazmat suits with medical-grade masks in an apparent symbol of anti-coronavirus efforts, and troops holding rifles and some multiple rocket launchers marching together.

But no missiles were seen or mentioned in the reports, and Kim did not deliver any speech, unlike last October when the country held a predawn military parade showcasing previously unseen intercontinental ballistic missiles.

"The columns of emergency epidemic prevention and the Ministry of Public Health were full of patriotic enthusiasm to display the advantages of the socialist system all over the world, while firmly protecting the security of the country and its people from the worldwide pandemic," the KCNA said.

North Korea has not confirmed any COVID-19 cases, but closed borders and imposed strict prevention measures, seeing the pandemic as a matter of national survival.

Following last October's event, another night-time military parade was held in January. Preparations for the latest parade were spotted on commercial satellite imagery and reported last week by the specialist NK News online outlet and 38 North, another organisation that tracks events in North Korea.

Talks aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile arsenals have stalled in recent years. U.S. President Joe Biden's administration has said it will explore diplomacy to achieve North Korean denuclearization, but has shown no willingness to meet North Korean demands for an easing of sanctions.

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