Thousands of North Koreans march in anti-US rallies as the country marks the anniversary of the Korean War

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Tens of thousands of North Koreans marched in anti-American rallies in the nation’s capital over the weekend, vowing “ruthless” revenge against “American imperialists,” as the country marked the 73rd anniversary of the start of the Korean War, state media said on Monday.

More than 120,000 people took part in Sunday’s mass rallies in Pyongyang, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency reported.

As the 1950-53 conflict was sparked by a North Korean surprise attack, protesters mobilized in Pyongyang promoted their government’s version of events and accused the United States of provoking the war and leaving Koreans ” wounds… that will never heal.” ”

They also expressed pride in the expansion of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs, insisting that their country now has “the absolute strongest weapon to punish the US imperialists and the war deterrent for self-defense which no enemy dares to provoke”.

Photos published by the northern newspaper Rodong Sinmun showed a stadium in Pyongyang filled with tens of thousands of people wearing COVID-19 masks, raising their fists in the air and holding signs saying: “Eradicate the US imperialist invaders” and ” The entire continental United States is within our striking range.

The weekend rallies took place amid heightened tensions in the region, as the pace of North Korean weapons demonstrations and joint U.S. military exercises with South Korea intensified in a cycle of tit-for-tat.

Since the start of 2022, North Korea has tested around 100 missiles of varying ranges as leader Kim Jong Un tries to demonstrate a dual capability to carry out nuclear strikes both on the American mainland and in Korea. from South. The North is also accelerating efforts to launch its first military reconnaissance satellite into orbit, after a failed first attempt in May.

There are signs Kim is preparing to further display his military might by holding a huge military parade in Pyongyang next month that will likely feature his most powerful missiles.

Recent commercial satellite images have spotted troop and vehicle movements and construction of structures that suggest North Korea is planning a parade, likely for the July 27 anniversary of the Korean War armistice agreement. , which the North marks as “Great War Victory Day.”

Kim and her daughter took center stage at a military parade in February, when her military deployed what appeared to be a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile, which was likely the same system the country tested in first flight in April. If perfected, the weapon would give Kim a more mobile and harder to detect weapon to target the mainland United States.

Meanwhile, a North Korean defector turned activist said he flew balloons carrying some 200,000 anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets and COVID-19 medical supplies across the border from the south on Sunday night, continuing his multi-year campaigns that have often triggered angry reactions from the North.

Photos sent by Park Sang-hak showed a sign with a photo of Kim and a message highlighting how his state’s founding grandfather, Kim Il Sung, was responsible for starting the Korean War. On Monday afternoon, the North had not commented on Park’s latest hot air balloon ride.

North Korea is extremely sensitive to any outside attempt to undermine Kim’s leadership and weaken his absolute control over the country’s 26 million people, most of whom have little access to foreign information.

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