Trump has dispatched the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and an accompanying battle group to the Korean peninsula.
“We are sending an armada. Very powerful,” Trump told the Fox Business Network. “He is doing the wrong thing,” he added of Kim. “He’s making a big mistake.”
China, the North’s sole major ally, and Russia have both urged restraint, with Beijing’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi warning Friday that “conflict could break out at any moment”.
North Korea’s army vowed Friday a “merciless” response to any US provocation but diplomats in Pyongyang are more sanguine, pointing out that the North raises its rhetoric every spring, when Washington and Seoul hold annual joint exercises that it views as preparations for invasion.
None of the North’s five previous nuclear tests has taken place in the month of April.
– Testing times –
Military specialists keep a close eye on Pyongyang’s parades for clues about developments in its capabilities.
The hardware displayed Saturday included what appeared to be new ICBMs or prototypes, and the Pukkuksong submarine-launched ballistic missile, which Pyongyang successfully test-fired last August, reports and analysts said.
The rockets carried on articulated trailers appeared to be longer than the North’s existing KN-08 or KN-14 missiles, analysts said.
Chad O’Carroll, managing director of specialist service NK News, told AFP they could be a liquid-fuelled intercontinental ballistic missile, or an early version of one, even though Pyongyang has yet to formally announce it has an operational ICBM.
“It will be a big game-changer once it is deployed in service but they have got a long testing schedule ahead,” he said.
“We’ll probably see more engine tests or component tests building up eventually to an actual test of the full unit.”
– ‘Long live!’ –
Pyongyang could use the parade as a show of strength in preference to a nuclear test, analysts said.
It wanted to send “a tough message to the United States in response to the Trump administration’s recent rhetoric and the military steps the United States has taken”, said Evans Revere of the Brookings Institution in Washington.
Another missile launch or nuclear test “can’t be ruled out”, he said, but the recent US cruise missile strike on Syria and Washington’s tough stance “may give Pyongyang some pause”.
“A parade is a highly visible but non-kinetic way of showing off capabilities,” he told AFP.
Kim did not address the rally himself on Saturday, instead waving and smiling as ecstatic crowds of flag- and flower-bearing civilians — men in suits, women in traditional hanbok dresses — filed past him behind the military display.
“Long live!” they chanted, some in tears.