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North Korea celebrates founding leader’s birthday

SEOUL (AFP) – North Korea celebrated the birthday of its founding leader yesterday, state media reported, but mystery surrounded when a military parade – at which the regime may unveil new weapons – might happen.

Known as the Day of the Sun in the nuclear-armed North, the April 15 birthday of the late Kim Il-sung – grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un – is one of the most important dates in Pyongyang’s political calendar.

There has been a steady drumbeat of celebratory coverage in state media leading up to the day itself, including commemorative stamps, light festivals, dance parties and floral tributes.

The anniversary comes three weeks after North Korea staged its largest intercontinental ballistic missile test ever – the first time Kim’s most powerful weapons had been fired at full range since 2017.

That test was the culmination of a record-breaking blitz of sanctions-busting launches so far this year and signalled an end to a self-imposed moratorium on long-range and nuclear tests.

Seoul-based specialist site NK News said its sources in the North heard helicopters and jets flying low over Pyongyang shortly after midnight on Thursday – indicating a night-time military parade may have already taken place.