|North Korea displays new submarine-launched ballistic missiles during a military parade in Pyongyang, Thursday. / AP-Yonhap|
By Kang Seung-woo
North Korea used a Thursday evening military parade marking its latest party congress as a fully calibrated warning to the incoming Joe Biden administration in an attempt to keep its focus on its nuclear program and extract concessions from the United States, according to diplomatic experts.
On the occasion of the eighth congress of the ruling Workers' Party that ended on Tuesday, the Kim Jong-un regime staged a military parade in Pyongyang, highlighted by the unveiling of a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) that was labeled as the Pukguksong-5, possibly an upgraded version of the Pukguksong-4 that was showcased at another parade in October to mark the party's 75th founding anniversary.
Park Won-gon, a professor of international politics at Handong Global University, said the North "exquisitely" took advantage of the military parade against the U.S.
"The Kim regime already showed what it could in the October parade, so it was mainly aimed at enhancing his grip on power domestically, but he did not squander an opportunity to warn against the U.S. by unveiling a new SLBM," he said.
"After Kim rolled out his plan to develop nuclear-powered submarines during the congress, the North displayed a new SLBM that is regarded as the ultimate in the nuclear arsenal. Through the event, the North showed off its second-strike capability against the U.S. and it is much more threatening than an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)."
Kim Jin-a, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA), also said the exhibition of a new SLBM is a message to the U.S. that the country is boosting its nuclear capability to deter the U.S.
"Given that the North Korean leader said his country's national defense capabilities 'are in the level of pre-emptively containing the hostile forces' threat outside our territory,' it may have upgraded its SLBM in the Pukguksong-5," she said.
"In addition, he referred to the development of nuclear-powered submarines and it will enable the North to carry SLBMs to the Pacific Ocean and attack the U.S. mainland in a second strike even if its ballistic missiles are intercepted, which could be a game changer."
Park also said one more thing to pay attention to is an upgraded version of its KN-23 missile.
"Kim Jong-un also said the development of tactical nuclear weapons and the newly unveiled missile could fly 1,000 kilometers, which can be a threat to South Korea and Japan. By showcasing this weapon, the North is believed to seek to secure an arms control deal with the U.S.," the professor said.
The show of force came as the Biden administration is inaugurated next week amid speculation that it may not spend much time on the North Korean nuclear issue, which has been deadlocked since February 2019 when the much-hyped Hanoi summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim failed to reach a deal.