South Korea on Tuesday held its first major military parade in a decade to celebrate its 75th Armed Forces Day and flex its defensive muscle against North Korea.
President Yoon Suk-yeol warned that “if North Korea uses nuclear weapons, its regime will be brought to an end by an overwhelming response from the ROK-U.S. alliance.”
“Based on battle-ready combat capabilities and a solid readiness posture, our military will immediately retaliate against any North Korean provocation,” Yoon vowed.
The South Korean president said Pyongyang’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,” he said.
Yoon said South Korea will “further strengthen security cooperation” with the United States and Japan” to “establish a strong security posture.”
The parade through Seoul included some 4,600 South Korean soldiers and 300 U.S. troops, plus military vehicles and weapon systems, including amphibious assault vehicles, tanks, missile launchers, and drones.
The Korea Times reported the parade showed off elements of South Korea’s “Three-Axis” missile defense and response system, including the first public appearance of the L-SAM, South Korea’s home-developed ballistic missile interceptor.
“Arranged flights of the Air Force’s Black Eagles aerobatic team and the Army’s Apache attack helicopters over the troops were canceled due to rain,” the Korea Herald added. The canceled flyover would have included American-made F-35 fighters.
The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency closed many of the city’s roads to make way for the parade, which began with a ceremony at the Seoul Air Base, split into two routes, and then converged for the big event in downtown Seoul. The two routes were deemed necessary to accommodate the large number of heavy armored vehicles involved. Some of the roads closed for the parade were not reopened until the next morning.
Armed Forces Day celebrates the foundation of the armed forces of the Republic of Korea. It is usually observed on October 1, the day the South Korean military pushed north across the 38th Parallel in 1950 during the Korean War.
This year, October 1 would have conflicted with Chuseok, a three-day mid-autumn harvest festival scheduled according to the lunar calendar, which would have placed it between September 28 and September 30. Chuseok, sometimes known as “South Korean Thanksgiving Day,” is a merry travel, shopping, and feasting holiday that causes massive traffic jams in Seoul.
The Korea Herald noted that South Korea used to hold a military parade every five years, but the practice was discontinued under the administration of liberal President Moon Jae-In, who settled for an air show in 2018.
Military officials said this year’s parade was the largest in South Korea’s history, and it also boasted the biggest showing by American troops. The U.S. military usually sends honor guards and bands to the Armed Forces Day event, but this year American combat troops marched with South Korean soldiers.
Former CIA analyst Soo Kim told Agence France-Presse (AFP) the intended audience for the parade included North Korea’s dictatorship. Kim said the parade was “a not-so-subtle and visually provocative gesture on the part of the South Korean government of telling Kim Jong-un that Seoul will not be backing down or looking for ways to reconcile.”
The parade may also have been meant for eyeballs in Moscow. The U.S. and South Korea have accused Russia of contemplating weapons purchases from North Korea. South Korea has a longstanding prohibition against selling weapons to nations involved in active conflicts, but that restriction could be waived for Ukraine if North Korea supplies arms to Russia.
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