Drones and gymnasts: North Korean 'Mass Games' return with messages of reconciliation

Drones and gymnasts: North Korean 'Mass Games' return with messages of reconciliation

Workers with paint brushes and brooms put the final touches on Pyongyang's iconic Kim Il Sung Square as North Korea prepared for what promises to be its biggest celebration in years on Sunday - the 70th anniversary of the country's official birth as a nation.

In a tweet Sunday, President Trump suggested North Korea's decision to cut the missiles shows their commitment to denuclearization.

A State Department official confirmed Saturday that Pompeo has letter from Kim for Trump.

"The DPRK has evolved into a strong military power, based on our party's efforts to fundamentally block the outside world's threats of attack and invasion against our country", he said, cited by NK News, in a speech mainly focused on the economy.

"There was no display of ICBMs, IRBMs (intermediate-range ballistic missiles), which would really not have sat well with the whole idea that North Korea is committed to ultimate demilitarization".

The slogans - one of which said "all efforts on economy" - are in line with Kim's new political priority outlined earlier this year before he met Trump.

"Theme was peace and economic development", the United States president said.

Kim is emphasizing peace and the economy as a way to "create the momentum in the U.S".

The games are also a time-tested source of tourist dollars for North Korea.

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Washington wants Pyongyang to move decisively toward dismantling its nuclear weapons program, but North Korea insists it first wants a declaration that the 1950-53 Korean War is over, as a way of helping guarantee its security and build trust. Kim got to the bargaining table in part by vowing not to resume nuclear tests, and he could use peace talks to legitimize his regime and get worldwide sanctions relaxed.

The process has become bogged down in recent weeks, with the North demanding a formal declaration that the Korean War is over, and the South's Moon caught between his neighbour and his ally.

However, Trump days ago praised the North Korean leader, touting him for saying he wants to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula during Trump's first term as president.

Analysts closely watched for pronouncements by Kim that could suggest a new challenge to the US or a willingness to compromise.

After a 21-gun salute, dozens of infantry units marched through Kim Il Sung Square, some in night-vision goggles or wielding rocket-propelled grenade launchers, as the current leader - the founder's grandson - looked on from a rostrum. "Unification is the only way Koreans can survive", Rodong Sinmun, the state-party newspaper, said in an editorial. The statement contrasted with Kim's remarks to visiting South Korean envoys Wednesday, when he said that declaring peace wouldn't require American troops to leave.

There was no sign of the Hwasong-14 and -15 missiles that can reach the mainland United States and changed the strategic balance when they were first tested past year.

"Today's celebrations amazed me because I have seen two previous celebrations like the parades that were far more militaristic", he said. China is an ally of the socialist kingdom.

With a formation of glowing drones, lasers and stadium-sized gymnastics shows, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un relaunched the "Mass Games" on Sunday in a pageant that declared that "waves" of global sanctions would break against the strength of North Korea's self-reliance.

Xi's decision not to go, but still send a senior envoy, may be calculated to show backing for Pyongyang while not antagonizing Trump as China and the U.S. are embroiled in a trade dispute.

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