Seoul stages N. Korea-style parade

SOUTH KOREA - South Korea staged its largest military display in a decade yesterday, as President Park Geun Hye warned of the "very grave" threat posed by North Korea's nuclear-weapons programme.

At an airbase south of Seoul, some 11,000 troops and 120 aircraft took part in the event, which showed off the military's most advanced weaponry, including a cruise missile capable of surgical strikes against the North Korean leadership.

Such displays are generally considered more a North Korean speciality, with massive, highly choreographed parades of goose-stepping intensity staged regularly in Pyongyang.

The guest of honour was United States Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel. He was on a visit to underscore the US' commitment to its military alliance with South Korea, where 28,500 US troops are currently stationed.

"The situation on the Korean very grave," Ms Park warned in her speech at the event marking the 65th anniversary of the founding of South Korea's armed forces.

"North Korea adamantly continues to develop and upgrade its nuclear weapons," she said, adding that the South had no option but to boost its military deterrent in response.

She specifically cited the development of sophisticated missile-interceptor systems capable of neutralising a North Korean strike.

"I believe that the true purpose of the military lies not in fighting a war, but preventing one," she said.

Among the hardware on display was the Hyeonmu 3, an indigenously developed cruise missile that was first deployed on naval destroyers in November last year.

Two days after North Korea carried out its third nuclear test on Feb 12, the South's defence ministry showed the media a video presentation of the Hyeonmu's capabilities.

"It is a precision-guided weapon that can identify and strike the office window of the North's command headquarters," ministry spokesman Kim Min Seok told reporters at the time.

The missile was displayed again in the afternoon as a pared-down version of the parade moved to central Seoul, huge sections of which had been closed to traffic hours in advance.