Just days after North Korea successfully launched a new intercontinental ballistic missile — another dramatic weapons advancement that further escalated tensions with the United States and South Korea — state media is reporting that people in Pyongyang have taken to the streets to celebrate with a street party and fireworks.
The official Korean Central News Agency reported Thursday that “dancing parties” had broken out in the capital and that there was “great joy and excitement” among government employees and civilians because of the previous day's launch.
In photographs released by the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse on Friday, thousands of people were shown on the streets of Pyongyang watching fireworks displays. In some photographs, soldiers could be seen hugging and smiling.
The country's leader, Kim Jong Un, was shown celebrating with the crew that launched the missile shortly before 3 a.m. on Wednesday, in photographs released by North Korean state media.
North Korea frequently stages enormous events in Pyongyang, its grandiose capital. Often, the events have a politically provocative edge — in August, the country staged a rally with thousands of citizens who protested U.N. sanctions on North Korea and held signs that read “Protect our nation to the death.”
Given that the country is one of the most repressive regimes in the world with little access for foreign observers, it is difficult to gauge whether the public support that appears to be shown in these events is genuine. However, North Korean citizens are frequently exposed to propaganda about the need for North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons programs.
Pyongyang's official statement on Wednesday's launch suggested that the test showed North Korea was a nuclear state. “Kim Jong Un declared with pride that now we have finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power,” said the statement, which was read on state television after the launch.
Analysts who have pored over images of the missile launched on Wednesday have expressed surprise at its large size. The long flight time of the missile suggests it has a range that could target all of the United States, including Washington, D.C., though experts suspect that its range would be more limited if an actual nuclear warhead were attached — instead of the light, dummy payload that the test missile was believed to carry.