For the first time in years, North Korea will skip its annual “anti-U.S. imperialism” rally, according to the Associated Press.
The elaborate rally is typically held on June 27 to mark the beginning of the yearly “Struggle Against U.S. Imperialism Month.” In past years, North Koreans attended a variety of events designed to build nationalism and commemorate the end of the Korean War on July 27, 1953.
While there has been no official statement from Pyongyang on this year’s event, AP reporters in North Korea have confirmed that the rally will not be held on Wednesday.
In years past, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his predecessor Kim Jong Il have used demonstrations like the “anti-U.S. imperialism rally” to publicly assert defiance and communicate their political beliefs to the world. Images from last year’s rally show masses of North Koreans lined up in rows at the Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang, waving signs and pumping their fists in the air as the senior party officials denounced the U.S. and its allies. To mark the occasion, the North Korean government even released two special edition postage stamps depicting the literal destruction of America at Pyongyang’s hands.
Not only is the decision to skip the rally a break in years of tradition, it is also a startling reminder of how dramatically U.S.-North Korea relations have changed in the past year. Less than nine months ago, North Korea held a series of anti-U.S. rallies in response to President Trump’s bellicose remarks toward the country at the United Nations General Assembly. One of the largest “anti-U.S. showdowns” held to protest Trump’s remarks drew a crowd of over 100,000, North Korea’s state media KCNA announced.
This public antagonism has certainly moderated since then, particularly in the wake of the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore. But, as Brian Murphy points out in The Post, even as Kim’s regime calls for a “new era” of North Korea-U.S. relations with public gestures like the cancellation of this rally, little progress has been made in the way of what the United States and its allies are really looking for: denuclearization.