North Korea paraded tractors and fire trucks instead of the usual tanks and missiles overnight from Wednesday to Thursday, for a third parade in less than a year in this nuclear-powered country , state media reported.

The parade was less provocative than the previous ones, this time made up of members of the Ministry of Railways, the Air Koryo airline or the Hungnam fertilizer complex, without any mention of exhibiting strategic weapons.

Leader Kim Jong Un appeared in a pale gray suit at midnight during a fireworks display and “sent warm greetings to the entire population of the country,” reported KCNA, who did not quote excerpt from the speech.

“We are monitoring the situation closely,” an official from the South Korean Defense Ministry told AFP. “We need a more in-depth analysis to get more details.”

The public, unmasked, could see students with firearms, officers wearing orange suits and gas masks or motorized paramilitary units, according to the images broadcast.

The most impressive weapons were artillery pieces pulled by tractors driven, according to KCNA, by farmer members of cooperatives “to pound aggressors and their vassal forces with annihilating firepower in an emergency.”

The usual giant missiles – real or fake – have been replaced as the highlight of the parade by the fire brigade of the public security forces.

Pyongyang has used military parades on several occasions in the past to send messages abroad and to its own people, usually on certain birthdays.

Thursday is the day of 73e anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name of the northern peninsula.

But the regime rarely organizes three parades in less than a year – with a military parade in January for the Workers’ Party Congress and another in October for the organization’s 75th anniversary.

The country has not carried out any nuclear tests or intercontinental ballistic missile fire since 2017.

Instead, the regime sought to use the parades to send “a message to the international community” without risking escalation, said Hong Min, a researcher at the Korea National Unification Institute in Seoul.

Strengthening the morale of the masses

Pyongyang is already the target of numerous sanctions due to its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

“The North must have felt the need to put pressure on the United States to return to the negotiating table,” Hong said.

Nuclear talks with Washington have been suspended since the failure of the Hanoi summit between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump.

Joe Biden’s representative for North Korea has repeatedly expressed his willingness to meet with his North Korean counterparts “anywhere, anytime”.

The Biden administration has promised a “practical, calibrated approach,” with diplomatic efforts to induce Pyongyang to abandon its weapons program, which North Korea has never been ready to do.

Domestically, the parade is an opportunity to boost morale and “mass solidarity with the regime,” added Hong Min.

North Korea has isolated itself and closed its borders to protect against the spread of the Covid-19 which first emerged in neighboring China, adding to the pressure on its dying economy.

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At the end of August, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had reported “signs” indicating that North Korea seemed to have restarted its reactor producing plutonium in the Yongbyon nuclear complex.

The IAEA had estimated that the signs of operation of the reactor were “deeply disturbing”.

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