A large-scale military parade took place in downtown Seoul, Tuesday, in celebration of the 75th Armed Forces Day and also as a show of force against escalating North Korean threats.
Armed Forces Day falls on Oct. 1, but the parade was held, Tuesday, ahead of the Chuseok holiday.
President Yoon Suk Yeol walked with military personnel and the general public in the parade. It was the first time that a South Korean leader did that on Armed Forces Day and the move was aimed at amplifying the siginificance of the event that was held for the first time in 10 years.
The parade featured core assets of South Korea's "three-axis" defense system, comprising the Kill Chain, Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) and Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR). More than 3,700 service members, including over 300 soldiers from the U.S. Forces Korea, joined veterans and citizens to express their trust and appreciation for the Armed Forces.
It was the first time in 10 years that the South Korean military staged a parade in the heart of the capital. Under a presidential decree, a military parade has to be staged every five years, but the previous Moon Jae-in administration did not hold one in 2018, given Seoul's amicable atmosphere with Pyongyang at the time.
The 1.2-kilometer parade took place in downtown Seoul between Sungnyemun and Gwanghwamun, displaying key weapons of the three-axis system, including the Cheongung, the Hyeonmoo and Long-range Surface-to-Air Missiles (L-SAM).
L-SAM is South Korea's home-developed missile defense system, tasked with shooting down ballistic missiles in their terminal phase, in the event of an attack by North Korea. This is the first time that the L-SAM has been revealed to the public. Other military assets such as K2 battle tanks, K9 self-propelled howitzers and attack drones were also on display during the parade.
The military said Tuesday's parade was the largest one since the Korean Armed Forces was founded, and the first time for the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Marine Corps to show their combined combat readiness. By featuring the most advanced combat forces, the military sought to showcase its strength to South Koreans and the world, the presidential office said.
However, arranged flights of the Air Force's Black Eagles aerobatic team and the Army's Apache attack helicopters over the troops were cancelled due to rain.
Before the parade, a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of Armed Forces Day took place at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, and militray personnel performed drills with Yoon overseeing them. During the ceremony, the president issued a stern warning to the North.
"Based on battle-ready combat capabilities and a solid readiness posture, our military will immediately retaliate against any North Korean provocation," Yoon said during his commemoration speech.
"If North Korea uses nuclear weapons, its regime will be brought to an end by an overwhelming response from the Republic of Korea (ROK)-U.S. alliance." ROK refers to South Korea's official name.
Yoon stressed that the Kim Jong-un regime's threat to use nuclear weapons is "an existential threat to our people and a grave challenge to world peace," and the regime's "obsession with the development of nuclear weapons aggravates the North Korean people's suffering."
"The North Korean regime must clearly realize that nuclear weapons will never be able to guarantee its security," Yoon said.
The president also noted that the ROK-U.S. alliance, which marks its 70th anniversary this year, serves as the foundation of South Korea's national security, citing the Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG) between Seoul and Washington.
"Now, the ROK-U.S. alliance has become a more sophisticated nuclear-based alliance," Yoon said. "We will establish a unified response system that combines U.S. nuclear assets and our non-nuclear assets through the ROK-U.S. NCG. The U.S. strategic assets to be deployed frequently within the Korean Peninsula will strengthen our deterrence against North Korea's nuclear weapons."
In line with this, the U.S. Forces Korea also sent its largest delegation to Tuesday's events to show off the strength of the alliance, the presidential office said. In previous years, U.S. Forces Korea has sent honor guards and military bands to Armed Forces Day events, but this year, it also sent combat forces.
To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the alliance and the armistice of the Korean War, the grand daughters of John Foster Dulles, who served as the U.S. secretary of state at the time of the signing of the South Korea-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty, and Mark Wayne Clark, who participated in the signing of the Korean War Armistice Agreement as the U.N. Commander, were invited to the ceremony at Seoul Air Base, along with 30 veterans and their families who had served in the Korean War from 20 different countries.