PYONGYANG, North Korea — Goose-stepping soldiers, columns of tanks and a broad array of ominous-looking missiles poised on mobile launchers paraded through Pyongyang's main square on Saturday in a painstakingly choreographed military pageant intended to strike fear into North Korea's adversaries and rally its people behind young ruler Kim Jong Un on the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War.
The lavish assembly of weapons and troops is reminiscent of the marches held by the Soviet Union and China at the height of the Cold War. It is one of the few chances the world gets to see North Korea's military up close. Although Pyongyang frequently uses the occasion to reveal new, though not always operational, hardware, there didn't appear to be any new weapons in Saturday's parade. Its arsenal of missiles, however, was front-and-center.
Overlooking a sea of spectators mobilized in Kim Il Sung Square to cheer and wave flags, leader Kim Jong Un saluted his troops from a review stand. He was flanked by senior military officials, the chests of their olive green and white uniforms laden with medals. As fighter jets screamed overhead, a relaxed looking Kim smiled and talked with China's vice president. China fought with North Korea during the war and is Pyongyang's only major ally and a crucial source of economic aid. Kim did not make a speech.
Kim's rule, which began in late 2011 after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, has been marked by high tensions with Washington and Seoul. He has overseen two long-range rocket launches and a nuclear test that drew widespread condemnation and tightened U.N. sanctions.
North and South Korea have turned to tentative diplomacy in recent weeks, but March and April saw North Korean threats of nuclear war against Washington and Seoul in response to annual South Korean-U.S. military drills and U.N. condemnation of Pyongyang's February nuclear test, the country's third. Long-stalled North Korean nuclear disarmament talks show no sign of resuming.
Saturday's parade marks a holiday the North Koreans call "Victory Day in the Fatherland Liberation War," although the 1950-53 Korean War that refers to ended in a truce and the Korean Peninsula remains technically at war.