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N Korea at crossroads

North Korea unveils seemingly new, larger ICBM at military parade

Kim Jong Un claims nation has not had a single COVID-19 case

North Korea shows what appears to be its newest and largest ICBM in a military parade early Saturday in Pyongyang to mark the 75th anniversary of the nation's ruling party.   © Kyodo

SEOUL -- North Korea displayed what appears to be a new intercontinental ballistic missile that is larger than its predecessors at a military parade early Saturday to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the nation's ruling party.

The weapon was shown at the end of an event that South Korean media says began around midnight and went on until about 2 a.m. The missile was carried on a mobile erector launcher with 22 wheels, larger than the vehicle that transported the Hwasong-15 missile that was featured in a February 2018 parade.

The Hwasong-15's estimated range is 13,000 km, making it capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the U.S. mainland.

Edited footage that aired on North Korean television in the evening showed leader Kim Jong Un watching over the parade, which featured goose-stepping soldiers, fireworks, tanks and aircraft formations in front of cheering crowds. No masks were to be seen among the crowds.

Kim said the nation had not had a single COVID-19 case. The leader also vowed to strengthen the isolated country's military power, but said he would not employ it unless the nation is threatened.

"We do not empower our war-deterrence capabilities targeting a specific country. We empower it to protect ourselves," Kim said in a speech at the event. "But if anyone harms our country's security, we will punish it with the most powerful attacks."

The Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea's military said the parade featured many weapons that they are now analyzing. "Intelligence authorities of the Republic of Korea and the U.S. are following up on the event," the JCS said in a statement.

The parade comes as relations with Seoul grow tense. Kim issued a rare apology to South Korean President Moon Jae-in for the killing of a fisheries official from the South in its waters last month. Seoul has requested a joint investigation, a request Pyongyang has not responded to.

Analysts say Kim may seek to provoke the U.S. around the time of the presidential election in early November.

"Kim Jong Un will likely engage in some type of major provocation in the coming months in an effort to grab the world's attention and put the next U.S. administration on the defensive," said Scott Seaman, a director at Eurasia Group.

"But the risk is low of a provocation occurring and then sparking a confrontation with the U.S. that badly rattles markets; this is in part because the U.S. will be distracted by domestic problems."

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