Tuesday, September 26, 2023
South Korea on Tuesday held its first major military parade in 10 years showcasing a variety of weapons, including ballistic missiles and attack helicopters, as a display of strength and resolve against North Korea.
This parade celebrated Armed Forces Day, which is usually a more modest event compared to North Korea's extravagant displays of military might under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, which often includes advanced weapons like intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
President Yoon Suk Yeol, in a speech at Seoul Air Base, warned Pyongyang against the use of nuclear weapons and pledged to ramp up support for the military and the defence industry.
"If North Korea uses nuclear weapons, its regime will be brought to an end by an overwhelming response from the ROK-US alliance," Yoon said while addressing troops in the rain.
According to the Defence Ministry, the full-day event will feature thousands of troops, South Korea's home-grown tanks, self-propelled artillery, attack aircraft, and drones, along with 300 of the 28,500 US soldiers.
The highlight will be a 2 km parade through Seoul's main commercial district to the Gwanghwamun area, the gate to a sprawling palace.
South Korea last held a military street parade in 2013. The Armed Forces Day event and parade are being held before the actual day on October 1, as it overlaps with a major national holiday this year, Reuters reported.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has taken a hawkish stance on North Korea, focusing on weapons displays and military drills to counter its nuclear and missile programs.
Yoon has also promised a swift response against any aggression by Pyongyang and reinforced a military alliance with Washington and Tokyo since taking office last year.
A parade at Seongnam Airbase showcased South Korea's military hardware, including Hyunmoo missiles, L-SAM missile interceptors, and reconnaissance drones on Tuesday.
The president revealed that due to poor weather, a fly-past of F-35 jets and the country's first domestically developed fighter, the KF-21, was scrapped.
Hyunmoo missiles, one of South Korea's latest, are part of Seoul's plans to strike the North during the conflict, while L-SAM missile interceptors are designed to hit incoming missiles at 50-60km altitudes.
The ministry also said that the event will feature a joint flyover by South Korean and US military aircraft to demonstrate an "upgraded" combined defence posture.
South Korea's parade follows Kim Jong Un's recent visit to Russia, where he and Putin agreed to enhance military cooperation.
Yoon has criticised Russia for assisting North Korea in its war in Ukraine, stating that such assistance would be a direct provocation.