North Korea puts on a show for Day of the Sun

Updated 5:49 AM EDT, Sat April 15, 2017
north korea don lemon will ripley lkliv_00011913.jpg
CNN
north korea don lemon will ripley lkliv_00011913.jpg
Now playing
04:32
North Korea celebrates holiday with parade
CNN
Now playing
02:35
Photos show N. Korea improving nuclear facility
KCTV
Now playing
02:06
North Korea shakes up its military leadership
CNN
Now playing
02:51
CNN reporter's surreal journey inside N. Korea
Hyon Song-Wol (C), the leader of North Korea's popular Moranbong band, arrives at Seoul station in Seoul on January 21, 2018 before boarding a train bound for the eastern city of Gangneung.
North Korean delegates arrived in Seoul on January 21 on their way to inspect venues and prepare cultural performances for next month's Winter Olympics, in the first visit by Pyongyang officials to the South for four years. / AFP PHOTO / KOREA POOL / - / South Korea OUT        (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
-/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Hyon Song-Wol (C), the leader of North Korea's popular Moranbong band, arrives at Seoul station in Seoul on January 21, 2018 before boarding a train bound for the eastern city of Gangneung. North Korean delegates arrived in Seoul on January 21 on their way to inspect venues and prepare cultural performances for next month's Winter Olympics, in the first visit by Pyongyang officials to the South for four years. / AFP PHOTO / KOREA POOL / - / South Korea OUT (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:44
Who is North Korean pop star Hyon Song Wol?
north korea kim jung un new year speech hancocks lklv_00005209.jpg
Korean Central TV
north korea kim jung un new year speech hancocks lklv_00005209.jpg
Now playing
02:20
Kim Jong Un delivers New Year's address
Now playing
00:49
North Korea's largest textile factory
Now playing
00:51
Communal living in Pyongyang
Now playing
01:01
A glimpse of life in Pyongyang
This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 16, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) inspecting a launching drill of the medium-and-long range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 at an undisclosed location.
Kim vowed to complete North Korea's nuclear force despite sanctions, saying the final goal of his country's weapons development is "equilibrium of real force" with the United States, state media reported on September 16.  NK leadership watch says:  Kim Jong Un watches a missile drill on September 15, 2017. Also in attendance behind him are Kim Jong Sik and Ri Pyong Chol (Photo: KCNA).
STR/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 16, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) inspecting a launching drill of the medium-and-long range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 at an undisclosed location. Kim vowed to complete North Korea's nuclear force despite sanctions, saying the final goal of his country's weapons development is "equilibrium of real force" with the United States, state media reported on September 16. NK leadership watch says: Kim Jong Un watches a missile drill on September 15, 2017. Also in attendance behind him are Kim Jong Sik and Ri Pyong Chol (Photo: KCNA).
Now playing
02:33
Inside story of N. Korean smuggler's paradise
Now playing
00:56
The home of a North Korean Workers' Party member
A North Korean defector darts across the DMZ dividing the two Koreas in this screenshot of handout video provided by the United Nations Command.
United Nations Command
A North Korean defector darts across the DMZ dividing the two Koreas in this screenshot of handout video provided by the United Nations Command.
Now playing
03:05
Video shows North Korean defector's escape
North Korean soldiers (R) look at the South side while US Vice President Mike Pence (not pictured) visits the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the border between North and South Korea on April 17, 2017.
Pence arrived at the gateway to the Demilitarised Zone dividing the two Koreas, in a show of US resolve a day after North Korea failed in its attempt to test another missile. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je        (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
North Korean soldiers (R) look at the South side while US Vice President Mike Pence (not pictured) visits the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the border between North and South Korea on April 17, 2017. Pence arrived at the gateway to the Demilitarised Zone dividing the two Koreas, in a show of US resolve a day after North Korea failed in its attempt to test another missile. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:40
What it's really like to be inside North Korea
Kim Yo Jong, the youngest sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seen in March 2014.
KCNA via Getty Images
Kim Yo Jong, the youngest sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seen in March 2014.
Now playing
02:14
Kim Jong Un promotes his sister (2017)
This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on October 29, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory, as his wife Ri Sol-Ju (R) looks on. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT   ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP.  /         (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
STR/AFP/Getty Images
This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on October 29, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory, as his wife Ri Sol-Ju (R) looks on. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:08
Kim Jong Un's wife makes rare public appearance
KCTV
Now playing
00:44
Watch: N. Korea performance shows US in flames

Story highlights

Soldiers chant: 'We will die for you'

Kim Jong Un smiles and claps as he watches the military parade

CNN —  

North Korea put its military might on display during a parade in the heart of Pyongyang while the regime showed 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, CNN’s Will Ripley, who was at the event, reported.

During the pomp and circumstance at Kim II Sung square, citizens showed their revolutionary fervor with choreographed performances while vehicles displaying North Korea’s military arsenal rolled by.

“We saw a submarine launch ballistic missiles, we saw missiles that are capable of being launched from a mobile launcher and just seconds before we came on the air we saw these very large what are believed to be intercontinental ballistic missiles,” Ripley said as jets tracked colors of the North Korean flag in the sky during the parade.

In a live broadcast, a newsreader from North Korea’s state-run television service called the new military hardware the country’s “modernized strategic missiles.”

“No nation in the world develops missiles and shows the real thing during a parade, it’s just too dangerous,” Markus Schiller, a weapons expert with ST Analytics, told CNN that parades always involve “mock-ups”. “If anything happens, it blows up, right next to the ‘Dear Leader’.”

For North Koreans, April 15 is an auspicious date that sees millions celebrate the birth of the nation’s founder.

Tens of thousands descended 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 US 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 US wants to take.”

North Korean soldiers carry flags and a photo of late leader Kim Il Sung as they march across Kim Il Sung Square during a military parade on Saturday.
Wong Maye-E/AP
North Korean soldiers carry flags and a photo of late leader Kim Il Sung as they march across Kim Il Sung Square during a military parade on Saturday.

“If the US does any reckless provocation, we will immediately apply a destructive strike with our revolutionary power. We’re prepared to respond to an all-out war with an all-out war and we are ready to hit back with nuclear attacks of our own style against any nuclear attacks,” Choe Ryong Hae, a senior member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) said in a speech during the large military parade.

Kim Jong Un walks on the red carpet before the parade.
KCTV
Kim Jong Un walks on the red carpet before the parade.

Tension has been building since Kim Jong Un announced in his New Year’s 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.

01:18 - Source: CNN
USS Carl Vinson heads to Korean Peninsula

It’s also conducted engine tests that analysts say could potentially power a long-range missile.

US 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.

Day of the Sun

The Day of the Sun is a public holiday usually marked by grand military parades, mass celebrations and other large displays of national pride.

It also often involves shows of force, such as weapons tests or other displays of strength.

In recent days, North Koreans have been seen practicing choreographed dance routines in brightly colored national dress.

Before the event, foreign journalists invited into the country to report on the occasion were entertained by children at the Children’s Cultural Palace on the outskirts of Pyongyang.

Children with fans entertain foreign journalists.
ED JONES/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Children with fans entertain foreign journalists.

An enormous amount of work goes into preparing for April 15.

Joseph Bermudez, an analyst for North Korean monitoring group 38 North, said preparations could even be seen on satellite images, which showed thousands of people and hundreds of vehicles practicing ahead of the event.

Monday, hundreds of members of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) crowded the plaza of the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang to pay tribute to past leaders and vow loyalty to Kim Jong Un, according to state media Rodong Sinmun.

Members of the Korean People's Army (KPA) attend a ceremony at Kumsusan Palace of the Sun on Monday to mark Day of the Sun.
Rodong Sinmun
Members of the Korean People's Army (KPA) attend a ceremony at Kumsusan Palace of the Sun on Monday to mark Day of the Sun.

Kim Il Sung died in 1994 at the age of 82, after leading his country from its establishment in 1948 until his death.

He passed the leadership to his son, Kim Jong Il, who in turn passed it to Kim Jong Un.

CNN’s Brad Lendon, James Griffiths, Sol Han and journalist Jung-eun Kim contributed to this report.