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 Wednesday.
In years past, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his predecessor Kim Jong Il have used demonstrations such as the rally to publicly assert defiance and communicate their political beliefs to the world. Images from last year’s rally showed masses of North Koreans lined up in rows at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, waving signs and pumping their fists as senior party officials denounced the United States 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 from years of tradition, but it is also a startling reminder of how dramatically U.S.-North Korean relations have changed in the past year. Less than nine months ago, North Korea held 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 more than 100,000, North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency announced.
This public antagonism has certainly moderated since then, particularly in the wake of the June 12 Trump-Kim summit in Singapore. But, as Brian Murphy points out in The Washington Post, even as Kim’s regime calls for a “new era” of North Korean-U. S. relations with public gestures such as the cancellation of the rally, little progress has been made on what the United States and its allies are really looking for: denuclearization.