PYONGYANG, North Korea — A military parade in the heart of Pyongyang was underway where it’s expected the North Korean regime will show off some of its latest arsenal.
Pictures on state television showed thousands of soldiers marching in formation alongside tanks, balloons and enormous crowds.
Leader Kim Jong Un was shown clapping and smiling from a reviewing box. At one point, the soldiers directed a chant toward him.
“We will die for you,” they yelled.
For North Koreans, April 15 is an auspicious date that sees millions celebrate the birth of the nation’s founder.
Thousands were expected to descend on the streets of the capital as the nation marks the 1912 birth of Kim Il Sung, grandfather of Kim Jong Un.
This year’s celebrations come at a tense time on the Korean Peninsula, days after a U.S. strike group was deployed to the region and amid expectations of another missile or nuclear test by Pyongyang.
North Korean state media warned that such “reckless acts of aggression” would be countered with “whatever methods the U.S. wants to take.”
Tension has been building since Kim Jong Un announced in his New Year message that the country was close to testing an intercontinental ballistic missile.
It has since conducted a number of shorter-range missile tests — some of which landed in the sea, less than 200 miles off the Japanese coast.
It’s also conducted engine tests that analysts say could potentially power a long-range missile.
President Donald Trump held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago resort last Friday to push his case for China to do more to rein in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
They then spoke Tuesday by phone, in a call Trump described as “very good.”
However, days later, he tweeted: “North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.”
North Korea says it’s created a nuclear weapon small enough to mount on a missile, though many experts dispute that claim.