PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waved to troops marching through central Pyongyang on Monday to mark the nation’s 65th birthday, but made no public comments before leaving the lavish event.
Flanked by generals and senior government officials, Kim stood in a high viewing area well above and away from the sea of onlookers who cheered and held up colorful placards in unison as the troops filed passed. North Korea watchers had hoped the young leader might address the crowd to shed some light on the isolated and secretive nation’s politics or diplomatic goals.
The military parade in Kim Il Sung Square featured mostly reserve troops and did not include displays of the kind of heavy artillery, tanks and missiles that the North rolled out in July to commemorate the armistice that ended hostilities on the Korean Peninsula in 1953.
Kim made no remarks at the July parade, either.
The North has recently shown an increasing willingness to engage in talks with South Korea, including efforts to reopen a joint industrial complex and allow reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, but it has also taken something of a hard-line with the United States.
It canceled at the last minute the visit of a senior U.S. official who had hoped to win the release of an American missionary sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in the North’s prison system and has recently through its official media stepped up criticism of the U.S. military presence in South Korea.
The missionary, 45-year-old Kenneth Bae, was recently transferred to a hospital because of poor health. The North claims it withdrew the invitation to the U.S. official because Washington spoiled the atmosphere for talks by deploying nuclear-capable bombers for drills that were recently held with South Korea.
Soon after denying the official visit, however, Kim played host last week to former NBA star Dennis Rodman. Before arriving in North Korea, Rodman said he had no intention of being a diplomat and was instead going to simply hang out with Kim, whom he has said is a good friend.
It was Rodman’s second trip to the North this year.