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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, raises hands with China's third highest ranking official, Li Zhanshu, during a parade for the 70th anniversary of North Korea's founding day.

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

North Korea watchers look to these parades as a rare opportunity to read into the mindset of the country's leader, Kim Jong Un, and the message Sunday was a nod to diplomacy.

Kim Yong Nam, North Korea's titular head of state, said during a speech at the parade that the country had achieved its status as a military power and would now be focusing on strengthening its domestic economy, the news service reported. During the three months since the historic Singapore summit and Trump's proclamation that North Korea intends to denuclearize, North Korea has built structures to obscure the entrance to at least one warhead storage facility, according to the officials.

Another major theme was the reunification of the Korean Peninsula, carved into two by the Soviet Union and the United States after World War II.

Floats on unification passed by a throng of North Koreans waving unified Korea flags.

"If Kim had shown ICBMs with Li watching the parade, it would have been a huge embarrassment to Xi", said Shin Beom-chul, a senior researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

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.

The guide said Kim Jung Un "appreciates attractive women and wants North Korean women to be the most lovely of all".

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attended the parade but reportedly did not address the crowd.

Kim expressed his appreciation for Xi's letter and asked Li to convey greetings and best wishes to Xi. Kim not only needs security backing from Beijing but help rebuilding his economy, which South Korea's central bank said slipped into recession in 2017.

The combining of military and civilian sections is a familiar North Korean parade format.

According to South Korean President Moon Jae-in's national security chief Chung Eui-yong, Kim had said the withdrawal of USA forces had "nothing to do with" the end-of-war declaration promoted by the Pyongyang regime.

The parade came at a sensitive time as the United States and South Korea try to engage the North in a process they hope will eventually lead to it giving up its nuclear arsenal.

The parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea began with ranks of soldiers, followed by tanks, trucks carrying rocket launchers and heavy artillery. He claims to have perfected his nuclear arsenal enough to deter US aggression and devote his resources to raising his nation's standard of living.

Later on Sunday, the celebrations will continue with the opening of what are known as North Korea's Mass Games, a synchronized display of gymnastics and dance performed by tens of thousands of people working in unison.

Both the Mass Games and the military parade have been criticised by human rights advocates and North Korean defectors for the pressure placed on performers and for painting a distorted picture of the country through stage-managed displays.


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