SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea displayed its longest-range missile capable of striking all of North Korea and other sophisticated weapons at a massive military ceremony Tuesday, a display of force meant to show Pyongyang that any provocation would be met with strong retaliation.
It was South Korea’s biggest Armed Forces Day ceremony in a decade, and the first since North Korea conducted its third atomic test and threatened nuclear war earlier this year.
About 11,000 troops, 190 weapons systems and other equipment and 120 aircraft were featured at the ceremony at a military airport just south of Seoul. Among them were GPS-guided, Hyunmu-3 cruise missiles with a range of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) that South Korea developed in recent years. It was the first time the domestically built Hyunmu-3 was publicly shown, according to Seoul’s Defense Ministry.
President Park Geun-hye said in a speech at the ceremony that South Korea must maintain its strong alliance with the U.S. and establish missile defense and pre-emptive strike capabilities to let North Korea know “the nuclear weapons and missiles it is obsessed with are useless.”
“We must build up a strong deterrence against North Korea until it puts down its nuclear weapons program and make a right choice for its own people and peace on the Korean Peninsula,” she said as visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel sat nearby.
Later Tuesday, South Korea was to hold a military parade through the streets of Seoul for the first time since 2008.
Such large-scale Armed Forces Day celebrations are normally held every five years, when a new president takes office. In 2008, however, the event was much smaller, with fewer soldiers mobilized for the parade and the ceremony held at a sports stadium, instead of a military airport.
Park took office in February for a single five-year term with a policy that combines vows of strong counter-action to any North Korea provocation with efforts to build trust and re-establish dialogue.
After its flurry of springtime threats, Pyongyang eased its rhetoric but still repeatedly vowed to bolster its nuclear arsenal to cope with what it calls U.S. military threats. North Korea then sought the resumption of stalled joint cooperation projects with South Korea before it recently abruptly cancelled the reunions of families separated by war.
The Korean Peninsula is still officially at state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 U.S. troops are deployed in South Korea.