N Korea showcase of missiles during parade, amid protest in South

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PYONGYANG/SEOUL: North Korea showcased new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) it tested last year and a new type of short-range missile during Thursday’s large military parade, analysts said on Friday.

The parade, marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean army, was attended by leader Kim Jong-un and other senior officials.

Usually held in April, the parade took place this year on the eve of the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics being staged in the South Korean mountain resort of Pyeongchang, just across the heavily fortified border.

North Korean state media broadcast the parade, showing what appeared to be the Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15 – the ICBMs test-launched last year for the first time.

The two-stage, liquid-fuel Hwasong-15 made its parade debut, with four of the large missiles carried on nine-axle transporter-erector-launchers (TELs). The ICBM was successfully tested last November and analysts believe it to be capable of reaching the continental United States.

The Hwasong-14 ICBM successfully tested twice last year, also made its first appearance at the parade.

The event unveiled a new short-range missile, which is based on the Russian Iskander ballistic missile but also shares many features of South Korea’s Hyunmoo-2 ballistic missile, according to Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

North Korea’s latest display of its military hardware focused on missiles and less on tanks and artillery, suggesting it was trying to project the image of a country with advanced capabilities in warfare.

Protesters burn flags

Hundreds of anti-North Korea protesters scuffled with riot police outside the Winter Olympics stadium in South Korea on Friday, hours before two of the North’s most senior officials were due to attend the Games’ opening ceremony.

Protesters burnt North Korean flags and pictures of the reclusive state’s leader, Kim Jong Un, as around 800 people gathered for a march towards the stadium where the Olympic torch will be lit in what Seoul wants to become a symbol of peace.

North and South Korea are still technically at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, and the North faces ever-tightening international sanctions after it conducted a fresh nuclear test last year and a series of missile tests.

Protesters scuffled briefly with police and criticised South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who is using the Olympics to re-engage with the North and pave the way for talks over the reclusive state’s nuclear and missile program.

They carried banners reading “Moon Regime is leading Korea to destruction” and one that made an appeal to US President Donald Trump: “President, North Korea bombing, please.”

The North Korean leader’s younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, will be in the audience on Friday night, the first member of the country’s ruling family to visit the South. She and the North’s ceremonial head of state will be on hand to watch teams from North and South march behind a unified flag.