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N. Korean Leader Kim Jong-un's Soft Speech While Showing Off Military Might: Analysis Updated: 2020-10-12 16:51:02 KST

The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, shed tears as he issued a rare apology for his failure to guide the regime through tumultuous times exacerbated by the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking at a huge military parade held at the weekend to mark the 75th anniversary of the ruling Workers' party, Kim removed his glasses and wiped away tears while the parade in the capital, Pyeongyang, featured the expected unveiling of a new intercontinental ballistic missile and other military hardware.

Let's talk about it. Live in the studio with me is Arirang News' go to North Korea expert, Dr. Go Myong-hyun of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.
Later in the show, we'll also be joined live by Bruce Klinger of the Heritage Foundation from Washington, D.C.

First, Go Myong-hyun, welcome to the show.

I think as a North Korea watcher, the military parade over the weekend could be analyzed in two different angles: One, the North Korean leader's unusually emotional speech and two, its defense capabilities as showcased in the parade.
But before we get to that, I want to go over the parade itself.
Number one, the remarkable cinematography - I was amazed and two, the time of the day this parade took place. We've learned that the parade actually took place the night before KCTV broadcast the parade between 11 pm and 1 am.
Why that time of the day and what did you make of the cinematography?

Another rather unusual element we got to witness Kim Jong-un tearing up as he delivered an emotional speech focused on shoring up domestic unity in the face of hardships this year.
In a gray western style suit and tie, what is Kim Jong-un trying to achieve by this show of behavior and what is this an indication of?

Despite the presence of troops, missiles, tanks and other evidence of North Korea’s growing military might, Kim offered support to people around the world suffering as a result of Covid-19 and voiced hope for an improvement in ties with South Korea.
As a North Korea analyst, what did you make out of this and which elements of his speech and the parade are you taking note of, in particular?

North Korea, obviously even as it pursued denuclearization talks with the Trump administration, kept advancing its arsenal. Now the behind-the-scenes progress is in the public eye.
Pyeongyang's revelation to the world of a new intercontinental ballistic missile, advancements in other military hardware and how it's being received in Washington.
Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation joins us live. Bruce is also a retired CIA analyst for North Korea.

Bruce, it's great to see you again.

Now, the star of Saturday's show was an ICBM carried on a transporter vehicle with 11 axles
North Korea has very limited supply of long transporter-erector-launchers, or TELs, acquired from China.
Researchers have come to the conclusion that the longer TELs seen at the parade were indigenously produced.
What does this say about the North's nuclear development and what were your main takeaways from the North's latest weapons showcase?

The new, liquid-propellant ICBM - which many said may be the largest road-mobile missile - appears to be a derivative of the Hwasong-15, the last long-range missile tested by North Korea in 2017 before Kim began engaging in diplomacy with Trump.
What's next for Kim Jong-un? Will he test this new ICBM anytime soon?

Kim warned in his speech that he would "fully mobilize" his nuclear force if threatened, but avoided direct criticism of Washington.
Although a U.S. official was cited by the media of saying that it was disappointing that North Korea was continuing to prioritize nuclear and ballistic missile development, nothing official out of the White House, the State Department or President Trump's twitter, for that matter.
How is it being received by Washington and why the muted response from the administration?

It seems North Korea has presented a not-so-surprising "October Surprise" with just over 3 weeks left until the U.S. presidential elections.
Kim has also sent a get-well message to Trump upon his contraction of COVID-19.
Do you foresee any U.S.-North Korea exchanges before the end of the Trump administration?

Bruce Klingner, a longtime North Korea analyst and currently with the Heritage Foundation, many thanks for your insights. We appreciate it.

Where does Kim's military get its fissile material and how can the regime afford all this?

A wide array of new weapons were showcased at the parade, setting the stage for Kim Jong-un to show the world his cutting-edge military power.
Featured in the parade were: a huge intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), larger missile carriers, a next-generation submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), and advances in conventional weaponry.
As North Korea continues to bolster their message of building its nuclear capabilities, the inter-Korean relationship has been worsening.
Where does this leave South Korea, and any prospects for peace and diplomacy?

Analysts have said it is highly unlikely that North Korea has not experienced any COVID-19 cases at all, yet Kim Jong-un continues to hold high-level meetings to ensure tight border restrictions.
What we've seen of the parade is definitely not a scene of the pandemic the world is battling right now - no social distancing, and no mask wearing.
We would normally have concerns about such an event being a deadly superspreader event
Was it North Korea's intention to show the world that the state is indeed free of the coronavirus?

Go Myong-hyun of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, thanks as always for speaking with us. You're much appreciated, as always.
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