Days after the White House unveiled plans to stage a military parade in the nation’s capital, Vice President Mike Pence blasted North Korea for doing the same.
North Korean leaders staged a large showing in the capital city of Pyongyang on Thursday, one day prior to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics opening ceremonies, displaying several new short range and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that officials test-launched late last year. The parade was held to mark the military’s 70th anniversary and was broadcast by North Korean state media.
Speaking with reporters on Friday, Pence, who is in South Korea to lead the U.S. delegation, called the parade “an ongoing provocation.”
“What we witnessed in Pyongyang, and what we witnessed again yesterday on the eve of the Olympics — what [South Korean President Moon Jae-in] said last night he hopes would be an Olympics of peace — was once again an effort on the part of the regime in Pyongyang to display their ballistic missiles, to display a military that continues to make menacing threats across the region and across the wider world,” he said.
However, when confronted with the fact that the White House had itself confirmed plans for a similar military display this week, Pence dodged.
“I think any opportunity we have to celebrate the men and women of the armed forces of the United States is a great day,” he said. “I heartily support the president’s call to celebrate our military.”
Pence then hearkened back to President Trump’s visit to Paris, France last year, for the country’s national day celebration. The city hosts an annual Bastille Day military parade, steeped in tradition and, as the Washington Post pointed out, “deeply rooted in the country’s history and values.”
“I think in the United States of America, just as in France — where the president was impressed on Bastille Day — we can celebrate our troops, not in any way ever be associated with the provocations of the North,” he said.
The Washington Post first reported the White House’s plans for a military parade on Tuesday, citing several anonymous military officials familiar with the matter.
“The marching orders were: ‘I want a parade like the one in France,’” one source said. “This is being worked at the highest levels of the military.”
The source added that the parade was still in the planning stages. “Right now, there’s really no meat on the bones,” they said.
Shortly after the Post published its report, the White House and Pentagon both confirmed the claims.
“President Trump is incredibly supportive of America’s great service members who risk their lives every day to keep our country safe. He has asked the Department of Defense to explore a celebration at which all Americans can show their appreciation,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated.
A Defense Department spokesman later explained that it would release more details once plans had been solidified. “We are aware of the request and are in the process of determining specific details. We will share more information throughout the planning process,” they said.
Trump has long expressed a desire for a military parade like that of North Korea and other totalitarian regimes throughout history. In an interview with the Post’s Karen Tumulty shortly before taking office last January, Trump explained that he planned to follow through on his campaign promise to “Make America Great Again” by holding military parades in the streets of Washington, D.C.
“Being a great president has to do with a lot of things, but one of them is being a great cheerleader for the country. And we’re going to show the people as we build up our military, we’re going to display our military,” he said. “That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military.”
However, the president’s recent plans for a showy parade honoring the military have gone over poorly, both among the public and within the military itself.
“A military parade is third world bullshit. We prepare. We deter. We fight. Stop this conversation,” former Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill tweeted on Thursday. O’Neill was a member of the team that took out Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011 and claims to have been the one who fired the kill shot.
A Military Times poll published on Thursday also showed that nearly 90 percent of readers believed the parade was unnecessary.
According to the outlet, readers were asked, “Should there be a parade showcasing troops and military equipment in Washington, D.C.?” Eighty-nine percent of those polled — a vast majority — answered, “No, It’s a waste of money and troops are too busy.” The remaining 11 percent responded, “Yes, it’s a great opportunity to show off U.S. military might.”