In a lavish military spectacle on Saturday, North Korea once again showed off its mysterious road-mobile ICBM, which many foreign analysts doubt is actually a working missile, the New York Times reported.
The KN-08 missile was first glimpsed at a spring 2012 parade. Photographs of the weapon were scrutinized by international experts who raised a number of doubts about its authenticity. The purported ICBM has never been flight-tested but that has not stopped Pyongyang from claiming it has the ability to carry out nuclear missile strikes against the U.S. mainland.
Also on display again was the North's intermediate-range Musudan missile, which has similarly never been test-fired.
Additionally, a number of North Korean soldiers seated in trucks were seen clutching kits emblazoned with radioactive danger signs. It is possible Pyongyang was signaling with the packs that it had developed so-called "dirty bombs" -- a radiological weapon that uses conventional explosives to disperse radioactive material across a wide area, according to Korea Defense Network armed forces analyst Shin In-kyun.
The North's military display did not impress Shin.
"North Korea is exaggerating and showing off its nuclear and missile threats," the expert said.
"The beauty of a parade is that weapons systems don't actually have to work in order to be impressive -- a missile launcher looks good even when the missile won't launch," Russian arms specialist David Stone of Kansas State University was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.
No notable weapon systems that had never previously been seen were spotted at the Saturday parade, according to AP.
Visiting Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao was observed taking in the display next to North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un. The seating arrangement was carefully choreographed to show the world that Beijing and Pyongyang's longstanding alliance remains strong, regardless of some perceptions in the West that it had been weakened in the last year due to North Korean provocations, according Chang Yong-seok, an analyst at Seoul National University.
"The fact that China's vice president was standing next to Kim Jong Un could have a symbolic meaning," according to the senior researcher. "North Korea probably wanted to show off that its relationship with China is improving."
Saturday's parade was staged to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. South Korean President Park Geun-hye used the occasion to call on North Korea "to give up the development of nuclear weapons if the country is to start on a path toward true change and progress."
The South Korean Unification Ministry on Monday extended to the North an offer for "final talks" on figuring out a way to resume joint business activities at a shared industrial zone in North Korea, ITAR-Tass reported. Numerous rounds of bilateral talks thus far have been unsuccessful at bridging the two sides' differences. The Kaesong complex was shuttered this past spring amid strong saber-rattling by North Korea.
Elsewhere, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter reportedly is planning a visit "very soon" to North Korea for the purpose of pleading for the release of imprisoned U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae, the Korea Herald reported on Sunday.
Separately, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Friday spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe about North Korea and other mutual concerns. The two men "agreed on the importance of close U.S.-Japan coordination as well as engagement with other partners in the region in addressing North Korea's provocations and the need to live up to its denuclearization obligations," a White House statement reads.
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