WASHINGTON D.C. — Dozens of foreign delegations participated in North Korea’s 60th ‘Victory Day’ parade on Friday, giving Pyongyang the opportunity to flex some military muscle and celebrate what both the U.S. and North Korea claim was a ‘victory’ in the Korean War.
As part of the celebrations, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and members of the country’s core political leadership met with senior government or military officials of 14 different countries.
Also in attendance for this meet-and-greet were North Korea’s nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam, the country’s premier Pak Pong Ju, the leading political official of the Korean People’s Army Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae, Kim Jong Un’s uncle and internal security boss Jang Song Taek, the head of the Korean’s People’s Army General Staff Gen. Kim Kyok Sik, North Korea’s defense minister Col. Gen. Jang Jong Nam, Kim Jong Un’s aunt and North Korean political heavyweight Kim Kyong Hui, Workers‘ Party of Korea propaganda boss Kim Ki Nam and a coterie of protocol officials, adjutants and language interpreters from the North’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the party’s International Affairs Department.
Some of the foreign delegations Kim Jong Un met represented foreign veterans who fought on North Korea’s side during the war such as Yu Zhenwu, former commander of the Chinese People Liberation Army Air Force – who led a veterans delegation to Pyongyang – and Ya. V. Kanov, Vice Chairman of the Korean War Veterans’ Council of Russia.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army was represented by Li Xiubao, deputy director of the Publicity Department of the PLA’s General Political Department, who led a culture and arts delegation to Pyongyang for the anniversary events. Foreign delegations from North Korea’s fraternal allies in southeast Asia were also greeted by Kim Jong Un including Tran Quoc Vuong, Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam and head of the Central Committee Office, Luong Cong, deputy director of the Vietnam People’s Army General Political Department, and Cheuang Sombounkhan, Secretary of the Central Committee of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party.
Kim Jong Un also greeted Avirmed Battor, Vice Minister of Defense for Mongolia.
African countries with which North Korea has had military or diplomatic ties since the 1970s were represented: Angolan Popular Liberation Movement Political Bureau member Manuel Francisco Tuta; Ugandan Vice President Edward Ssekandi; Ugandan Deputy Minister of Defense Odongo Jeje Deputy; General Secretary of the People’s Party for the Reconstruction and Democracy of Democratic Congo Marie-Madeleine Mienza; and, Mozambique’s Vice Minister of Defense Agostinho Salvado Mondlaine. Paolo Romani, Italy’s former Minister of Economic Development under former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, was one of two Italian politicians visiting Pyongyang for the war anniversary (the other was Antonio Razzi) and the only European figure who attended this event.
Among the other foreign government and military officials that shook hands with Kim Jong Un and the core leadership were:
Li Yuanchao, Vice President of China
North Korean watchers’ eyes were fixed on the activities and words of Li Yuanchao during his three-day visit to Pyongyang. The Chinese Vice President arrived in Pyongyang as head of a delegation which included officials of Communist Party of China’s International Liason Department, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and provincial authorities.
Li sat next to Kim Jong Un during the Arirang performance on July 26 and stood next to Kim during the military demonstration and parade in Kim Il Sung Square on July 27, walking with Kim Jong Un and waving to the crowd from the parade reviewing platform. The Chinese People’s Volunteers’ contributions ensured that North Korea did not lose the war, a fact which was acknowledged during the anniversary’s national report meeting. His presence in Pyongyang represented a thaw in the icy North Korean-Chinese relationship following the February 2012 nuclear test and subsequent military activity from March to May 2013.
While the Chinese continue infrastructure projects and development of special economic trade zones in North Pyongan Province and Rason, there is some ambivalence between the new Chinese leadership and Kim Jong Un. In a documentary film about Li Yuanchao’s meeting with Kim Jong Un, one can see Li and Kim smiling broadly at the meeting’s start, however Kim Jong Un’s smile quickly disappears. It should also be noted that Chinese media accounts of the meeting found that Li issued a general call for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and a resumption of the Six-Party Talks, a remark which was only hinted at in North Korean state media coverage.
Abdullah al-Ahmar, Assistant General-Secretary of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party
The 76-year old al-Ahmar was the first foreign leader, and one of two (Li Yuanchao was the other) with whom Kim Jong Un held a meeting, which took place at the Paekhwawon State Guest House in east Pyongyang on July 24. As the civil war in Syria has unfolded, North Korea has continued to support the administration of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad through government statements, media editorials and providing training and logitical support to Syrian forces. Ab
dullah al-Ahmar has largely been invisible since the summer of 2012 when there were rumors (likely disinformation) that he had defected. According to Syrian state media, when Kim Jong Un met with al-Ahmar, Kim “affirmed his country’s absolute solidarity with Syria in the face of imperialism, adding that the US and Israel will never be able to defeat Syria. . .voiced condemnation of all forms of foreign interference by the international imperialism in Syria’s internal affairs, warning that if the aggression on Syria continues, it would drag the entire Middle East into a conflict of severe consequences that would threaten the international peace and security” and “stressed his country’s confidence that Syria will come out of the crisis victorious thanks to the unity between the Syrian people, army and leadership.”
Sayed Hamidreza Tabatabaei, Deputy Commander of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran
In addition to meeting Kim Jong Un at the group gathering, Tabatabaei and and Iranian Army delegation also met with Col. Gen. Jang Jong Nam, Minister of the People’s Armed Forces. The MPAF manages North Korea’s external relations and exchanges between the Korean People’s Army and foreign militaries, which indicates the meeting addressed ongoing or future military exchanges between the two countries.
North Korea and Iran have made a barter agreement in which the North will exchange fertilizers, steel and other items for Iranian oil. It is unclear whether the two countries have reached or executed a written agreement, however the arrangement was noted in Iranian state media coverage announcing that Iran would send a delegation to North Korea for the war anniversary. During Tabatabei’s visit, North Korean state media announced that Kim Yong Nam, titular head of state, would attend the inauguration of incoming Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on August 4.
Guy Scott, Vice President of Zambia
North Korea and Zambia established diplomatic relations in 1969. Guy Scott gave an interview with Zambian Watchdog in which he defended the countries’ diplomatic relations, “there are plenty of rogue states we don’t have relationships with so…sometimes I think it is useful to bring people into the foe. We are not going to be told by…I mean the United States has a problem with North Korea and the UN Security Council has a problem with their North Korea military policy but that’s not the reason for boycotting them in celebrations of a national day.”
He also said “If by some small chance it helps them to feel less isolated, then we have done good but I am not counting on that. That’s not my purpose of going but to represent Zambia to say we are still here.” During his visit, Scott also stated that he was going to meet with representatives from construction and manufacturing corporations which might lead to further expansion of North Korean commericial interests in Africa.
Jose Ramon Balaguer, Director of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee International Department
The Cuban presence in Pyongyang for the anniversary was deliberately low-key, given the recent seizure in the Panama Canal of a North Korean commercial vessel returning from Cuba containing SA-2 missile parts, radar equipment and two MIG-21 fighter planes. Whilst Balaguer attended North Korea’s anniversary event, Kim Jong Un sent a message to Cuban leader Raul Castro on the 60th anniversary of the Moncada Barracks, the beginning of the Cuban Revolution which eventually ushered Raul’s brother Fidel into power.
It remains unclear whether any North Korean SA-2 missile systems were paraded through Kim Il Sung Square. During Belaguer’s visit, there were two development on the ship’s seizure. Fidel Castro published letter in which he described the seizure of the North Korean ship and the subsequent speculation around it as “a slander on our revolution.” On July 26, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli announced that his country was seeking an agreement to repatriate the 35 North Koreans arrested after the ships’s seizure.
Main picture credit: KCNA
Join the influential community of members who rely on NK News original news and in-depth reporting.
Subscribe to read the remaining 1532 words of this article.