Thousands of North Korean troops followed by artillery and tanks paraded through Pyongyang when the nuclear-armed country celebrated its 70th birthday, but refrained from showing the intercontinental ballistic missiles that have seen it hit with sanctions.
Instead, leader Kim Jong-un flaunted his friendship with China and raised the hand of President Xi Jinping's envoy as they greeted the crowd later.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), as it is officially known to the North, was proclaimed on September 9, 1948, three years after Moscow and Washington divided the peninsula among them in the last days of World War II.
These specific dates are a pillar of the Northern political calendar and for years they have been opportunities to demonstrate progress in their search for a missile capable of launching a nuclear warhead into the United States.
But a too militaristic demonstration this time could have altered the recent diplomatic flirtation in the peninsula, after Kim's meeting in Singapore with US President Donald Trump in June and his third summit with southern president Moon Jae in Pyongyang to ends of this month.
After a salute of 21 cannons, dozens of infantry units marched through Kim Il Sung Square, some wearing night vision goggles or wielding rocket propelled grenade launchers, while the current leader, the founder's grandson, I watched from a rostrum.
Li Zhanshu, one of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, the most powerful body in the country, sat next to him and both exchanged comments from time to time.
Armored personnel carriers, multiple rocket launchers and tanks in a row, with biplanes flying overhead in a formation "# 70;
At one point, the jets that crawl through the red, white and blue smoke – the colors of the North Korean flag – roared over the Juche Tower, the stone monument to the political philosophy of Kim Il Sung.
Finally the missiles arrived, the traditional climax of the parades. But the only ones that were shown were short-range battlefield devices, the Kumsong-3 anti-cruise missile and the Pongae-5 on-board surface weapon.
There were no signs of the Hwasong-14 and -15 rockets that could reach the continental United States and changed the strategic balance when they were tested for the first time last year.
"It seems that the North Koreans really tried to mitigate the military nature of this," said Chad O & Carroll, managing director of Korea Risk Group.
Any further missile display would have cast doubt on North Korea's commitment to denuclearization, he added.
& # 39; Long live!
Pyongyang has not publicly stated its willingness to give up the weapons it has developed over decades due to the enormous political and financial cost, but has had an offensive of diplomatic charm for months.
In April, Kim declared that the North's nuclear program had been successfully completed and that the "socialist economic construction" was the new strategic priority.
In a speech on Sunday, ceremonial president Kim Yong Nam praised the country and its army as "the strongest in the world," but did not mention nuclear weapons.
And immediately after the parade, thousands of citizens gathered in the plaza, along with floats with economic themes and calls for Korean reunification. The peninsula remained divided since the Korean War of 1950-53 ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.
Thousands of accompanying citizens waved bouquets and flags, singing "Long live" to the leader.
Diplomatic invitations for the anniversary were distributed around the world, but the only head of state that attended was the Mauritanian president, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, although the AFP saw the French actor Gerard Depardieu sitting in a section below the main stand.
Then, Kim and Li greeted the cheering crowd, while the North Korean raised his guest's hand in the air.
Beijing is the key diplomatic partner and protector of its neighbor, and after years in the freezing of northern arms ambitions, ties have heated up rapidly this year, with Kim visiting China three times to meet with President Xi Jinping .
Speculation that Xi could correspond to the anniversary was not fulfilled (Hu Jintao remains the last Chinese president to visit in 2005), but O & # 39; Carroll said that Pyongyang seemed to want to promote its friendship with Beijing.
"China is still a very important player and its presence here with such a high-level delegation aims in some way to remind the United States of that," he said.
Washington is seeking the "final and fully verified denuclearization of North Korea," while Pyongyang has only publicly affirmed its commitment to work towards the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, a euphemism open to interpretation on both sides.
The process has stalled in recent weeks, with the North demanding a formal declaration that the Korean War has ended, and the South Moon trapped between its neighbor and its ally.
"Apparently, Kim Jong Un thought it was not the time to unnecessarily provoke Trump," said Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korean studies professor at Dongguk University in Seoul.
But some things do not change
Many of the tanks and other vehicles in the parade still carried a slogan on the front: "Destroy the American imperialist aggressors, the sworn enemy of the people of the DPRK!"