North Korea displayed its submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) for the first time on Saturday ahead of a massive military parade in the capital, Pyongyang.
Weapons analysts said they believed some of the other missiles on display were new types of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).
North Korea warned the United States on Saturday to end its “military hysteria” or face retaliation as a U.S. aircraft carrier group steamed towards the region and the reclusive state marked the 105th birth anniversary of its founding father.
The North Korean ceremony began with a massive parade of military personnel and hardware through Pyongyang on Saturday morning to mark the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the revered founder of the nation.
Choe Ryong Hae, a close aide to Kim Jong-un, the current leader, addressed the packed square and reiterated the warning to the United States.
“If the United States wages reckless provocation against us, our revolutionary power will instantly counter with annihilating strike, and we will respond to all-out war with all-out war and to nuclear war with our style of nuclear strike warfare,” he said.
State television showed live images of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator, presiding over the march-past of thousands of military personnel through Kim Il-sung Square.
“The most powerful and cutting-edge strike and defence [capabilities] … are lined up to put an end to the military supremacy claimed by imperialists”, a television commentator said, South Korea’s Yonhap News reported.
Known as the Day of the Sun, the anniversary is the most important day on the North Korean regime’s calendar, although this year’s event comes at a time of heightened regional tensions.
There are clear indications that North Korea has completed preparations to carry out an underground nuclear test at its Punggye-ri proving grounds, while a US naval strike force, headed by the USS Carl Vinson, is approaching the Korean peninsula.
Both Pyongyang and Washington have intimated that they are willing and able to carry out a pre-emptive strike.
Quoting senior US intelligence officials, NBC News reported that Washington is prepared to launch a pre-emptive strike should a new North Korean nuclear test be imminent. US guided missile destroyers are on station in the Sear of Japan, the officials said, while heavy bombers are based on the Pacific island of Guam.
In an interview on Friday with the Associated Press in Pyongyang, Han Song-ryol, the North Korea vice foreign minister, said the US has become “more vicious and more aggressive” under President Donald Trump.
“We will go to war if they choose”, he said, adding that the North is also ready to conduct a pre-emptive strike.
The North Korean government is apparently deeply concerned that a US attack is imminent, with Pravda reporting that Mr Kim has ordered one-quarter of Pyongyang’s residents to evacuate the city immediately.
North Korea has also sent out new coded radio broadcasts, presumably to its agents in South Korea. Radio Pyongyang on Friday began broadcasting a series of page and line numbers from what South Korean intelligence believes is a book cipher that provides instructions to agents.
On Friday, the head of the Washington-based think tank The Institute for Science and International Security stated that North Korea has as many as 30 nuclear warheads at present but is stepping up production and is likely to have as many as 60 warheads by 2020.
Mr Trump was spending the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida and was being kept informed of developments.
The Chinese and Russian foreign ministers, Wang Yi and Sergey Lavrov, discussed the situation by phone on Friday, with both countries then urging restraint.
Mr Wang said: “Lately, tensions have risen and one has the feeling that a conflict could break out at any moment. Once a war really happens the result will be nothing but multiple loss. No one can become a winner.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Moscow is watching with great concern the escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula.”