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No missiles but ballet as North Korea's Kim puts on a show

17 April 2018

Past festivals also featured various cultural and economic displays, but the absence of military overtones this year was more in line with a message of reconciliation that Kim has sought to cultivate in recent months as he made his first visit to neighbouring China and announced plans to talk with the leaders of South Korea and the United States.

Im Jong-seok, the presidential chief of staff, said the inter-Korean summit would be a historic event because it would be the first time a North Korean leader had set foot on South Korean soil. Kim Yo-jong, the North Korean leader's younger sister, Choe Ryong-hae, vice chairman of the Workers' Party Central Committee, and Ri Su-yong, the vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party, also attended the performance.

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On April 27, Kim is scheduled to make history when he meets South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a summit just inside South Korean territory on the fortified border that divides the two countries. North Korea also expressed readiness to hold a summit meeting with the U.S. president.

Talks are underway about a possible visit by Xi to Pyongyang in June after the inter-Korean summit and North Korea-US summit, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported Monday, quoting Chinese and North Korean sources. "Then the detailed plans to execute the goals can be discussed at the North Korea-US summit".

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Kim reportedly invited Xi to North Korea during his visit to China in late March.

On last year's Day of the Sun, Kim put on a military parade bristling with his latest ballistic missiles, exacerbating worldwide tension over his nuclear weapon and missile programmes. "It is hard to expect the two leaders to sign the deal this time as they remain far apart on who and how to sign it", said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies.

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Reclusive North Korea is pursuing nuclear and missile programmes in defiance of UN Security Council sanctions and has made no secret of its plans to develop a missile capable of hitting the United States mainland. "Astana looks forward to serious outcomes of the forthcoming inter-Korean Summit and hopes the top-level meeting will become a breakthrough in relations between the two countries and help ease tensions in the Korean peninsula". North Korea might have wanted to increase its leverage ahead of the historic summits, and China might have meant to show that it is still a major player in resolving the North's nuclear standoff.

No missiles but ballet as North Korea's Kim puts on a show