Tens of thousands of North Koreans marched in anti-US rallies in the nation's capital over the weekend, pledging merciless revenge against US imperialists, as the country marked the 73rd anniversary of the start of the Korean War, state media said Monday.
More than 120,000 people participated in Sunday's mass rallies in Pyongyang, North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said.
While the 1950-53 conflict was triggered by a North Korean surprise attack, the demonstrators mobilized in Pyongyang promoted their government's version of events and accused the United States of provoking the war and leaving Koreans with wounds ... that can never be healed.
They also expressed pride in North Korea's expanding nuclear weapons and missile programs, insisting their country now has the strongest absolute weapon to punish the US imperialists and the war deterrence for self-defense which no enemy dare provoke.
Photos published by the North's Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed a Pyongyang stadium packed with likely tens of thousands of people in COVID-19 masks, raising their fists in the air and holding signs that read: Let's eradicate US imperialist invaders and The entire US mainland is within our striking range.
The weekend rallies came amid heightened tensions in the region, as the pace of North Korean weapons demonstrations and the United States' joint military exercises with South Korea have both intensified in a cycle of tit-for-tat.
Since the start of 2022, North Korea has test-fired around 100 missiles of various ranges as leader Kim Jong Un attempts to display a dual ability to conduct nuclear strikes on both the US mainland and South Korea. The North is also speeding up efforts to launch its first military reconnaissance satellite into orbit, following a failed first attempt in May.
There are signs that Kim is preparing to further flaunt his military might by staging 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 the building of structures that suggest North Korea is preparing a parade, likely for the July 27 anniversary of the Korean War armistice agreement, which the North marks as the great war victory day.
Kim and his daughter took centre stage during a military parade in February, when his military rolled out what appeared to be a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile, which was likely the same system the country flight-tested for the first time in April. If perfected, the weapon would give Kim a more mobile and harder-to-detect weapon to target the continental 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 yearslong campaigns that have often triggered angry responses from the North.
Photos sent by Park Sang-hak showed a placard with a picture of Kim and a message that highlighted how his state-founding grandfather, Kim Il Sung, was responsible for starting the Korean War. The North as of Monday afternoon had not commented on Park's latest ballooning stint.
North Korea is extremely sensitive about 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 news.