A slimmed-down Kim Jong Un has been pictured during a military parade to celebrate North Korea’s 73rd anniversary, as soldiers marched through the capital in hazmat suits.
State television has not broadcast footage of the parade, which North Korea said involved paramilitary and public security forces, but there were indications it has been toned down compared to previous events.
During the parade last year, the secretive country showed off what was believed to be a new intercontinental ballistic missile.
This year, fighter jets flew in formation about an illuminated Kim Il Sun Square and artillery pieces were hauled by tractors.
There were also marches of military search dogs and troops wearing gas masks and bright red suits and fireworks were set off during the parade.
North Korea’s leader was seen among the unmasked crowd shaking hands and hugging children.
According to the Korean Central News Agency, the event focused on domestic messaging, praising the marching units, civilian defence organisations and public security forces for supposedly making big contributions in anti-virus work, rebuilding communities destroyed by flood, and efforts to improve an economy battered by international sanctions and pandemic border closures.
North Korea is suffering from food shortages and a deepening economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this month, a spokesperson from UNICEF said North Korea rejected about three million doses of China’s Sinovac coronavirus vaccine.
The UN said its public ministry would like their jabs allocated to nations that have low vaccine supplies and surging cases.
Photos showed Kim Jong Un wearing a cream suit, waving from a balcony toward spectators and troops.
He did not make a speech during the evening, according to reports, but a member of the ruling party did.
He said the North’s government will continue to strengthen defence capabilities and “firmly defend the dignity and fundamental interests of our people and solve everything our own way with our own efforts on the principle of self-reliance”.
North Korea often celebrates state anniversaries by displaying thousands of marching troops and military hardware.
Previous parades were not aired live, but a taped broadcast is usually shown on state TV later.
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