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Asia

South Korea showcases military, and cruise missile

South Korea has held its largest military display in 10 years, involving 11,000 troops, 120 aircraft, and weapons including a cruise missile never before displayed. US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel attended.

President Park Geun-Hye (right in picture) said at Tuesday's military display that North Korea's nuclear weapons program posed a "very grave" threat to the divided peninsula.

The ceremony marked the 65th anniversary of the founding of South Korea's armed forces and featured a domestically-built missile, the Hyunmu-3, which was first deployed on naval destroyers last November and had never previously been showcased.

The display at an air base to the south of the capital Seoul also followed a particularly tense year between North and South Korea following the North's nuclear test on February 12. The Hyunmu-3 missile was first shown to the media shortly after this third nuclear test by the North.

"The situation on the Korean Peninsula… is very grave," President Park warned in her speech. "North Korea adamantly continues to develop and upgrade its nuclear weapons." She said that as a result of this, the South had no choice but to bolster its military muscle.

The air base display was followed by a similar ceremony on the streets of Seoul (pictured above), in a public demonstration of military might more commonly associated with North Korea.

Hagel on site

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel attended the ceremony as part of his trip to show Washington's commitment to South Korea, where roughly 28,500 US troops are currently stationed. The USS George Washington aircraft carrier is due to arrive in South Korea on Thursday, and is expected to take part in joint military exercises in the Sea of Japan next week.

On Monday, Hagel had toured the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the South-North Korean border that separates the two sides 60 years after the end of the Korean War.

"There is no margin for error up here," Hagel told reporters on his visit to the Panmunjom truce village where the Korean War armistice was signed. "This is probably the only place in the world where we have always a risk of confrontation where two sides are looking clearly and directly at each other."

msh/ipj (AFP, AP)