North Korea marks founding day with parade, diplomatic exchanges

SEOUL (Reuters) -North Korean leader Kim Jong Un marked the country's founding anniversary with a parade of paramilitary groups and diplomatic exchanges in which he vowed to deepen ties with China and Russia.

Kim observed the parade at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang and held talks with a visiting Chinese delegation, state media KCNA reported on Saturday.

The parade displayed rocket launchers hidden in delivery trucks and tractors towing troops and weapons, highlighting the militia's role as guerrilla fighters in a war.

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a letter expressing his willingness to strengthen strategic communication and working-level cooperation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also sent a letter to Kim, saying the two countries will expand bilateral ties to ensure security and stability in the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia.

"Growing China-Russia-North Korea cooperation and Xi skipping the G20 Summit in India give the appearance of a widening fissure in Asia's geopolitical landscape," said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

"Most stakeholders in the region want to avoid a new Cold War, but this looks increasingly difficult as Beijing and Moscow prop up Pyongyang and North Korea aligns itself with China and Russia's challenges to the international order."

An annual two-day summit of the Group of 20 (G20) countries kicks off on Saturday in New Delhi, India, which will be dominated by the West, with China's Xi skipping it and Russia's Putin also being absent.

Kim is expected to travel to Russia this month to meet Putin to discuss weapons supplies to Moscow to support its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

North Korea supplements its already large military with various paramilitary, reserve, and security groups such as the army-affiliated Worker-Peasant Red Guards (WPRG).

(Reporting by Jihoon Lee and Josh Smith; Editing by Sandra Maler, Stephen Coates and Michael Perry)