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President Trump gave North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a shoutout on Sunday for keeping long-range nuclear missiles out of a military parade marking the country's 70th anniversary, saying it's a "positive statement".

Speculation that Xi might reciprocate for the anniversary did not come to pass - Hu Jintao remains the last Chinese president to visit in 2005 - but O'Carroll said Pyongyang appeared to want to promote its friendship with Beijing.

I've seen many military parades around the world, but nothing that rivals the spectacle of Sunday's parade in Pyongyang.

And that came just two weeks before Trump's latest gushing tweet about Kim.

But too militaristic a display might have risked upsetting the recent diplomatic dalliance on the peninsula, after Kim's Singapore meeting with US President Donald Trump in June and his third summit with the South's President Moon Jae-in due in Pyongyang later this month.

China's top legislator on Sunday presented a signed letter from General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and Chinese President Xi Jinping to Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) and chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Such a high-level visitor - Xi has never visited Pyongyang - would have been a hugely symbolic win for North Korea.

On the day, however, neither transpired.

Both the Mass Games and the military parade have been criticised by human rights advocates and North Korean defectors for the pressure placed on performers and for painting a distorted picture of the country through stage-managed displays.

Others spoke of the importance of reunifying the two Koreas.

No matter how the worldwide and regional situation changes, China's firm commitment to the consolidation and development of bilateral ties will not change, nor will Chinese people's friendship towards their DPRK peers or China's support to DPRK's socialist course, Li said.

The two leaders are scheduled to meet again later this month in Pyongyang and Kim seems determined to pursue economic development after his quest for nuclear proliferation prompted both the United States and South Korea to the negotiating table.

For worldwide consumption at least, Kim Jong-un's flagship "Byungjin" policy line, which focused on joint development of the economy and strategic weapons, has been watered down, with the focus now shifting to economic progress and downplaying the arms.

The message from the group, that directs its propaganda mainly at the South, included a condemnation of the United States for the "most barbaric massacre" during the 1950-53 Korean War.

The economic theme was also prominent in the new mass games routine, which was markedly lighter in tone and more entertaining than in previous years, when it tended to be more dramatic and overtly political.

After a 21-gun salute, dozens of infantry units marched through Kim Il Sung Square, some in night-vision goggles or wielding rocket-propelled grenade launchers, as the current leader - the founder's grandson - looked on from a rostrum. The first of the three Kims was best known, after the war, for his "juche" or self-reliance philosophy. The head of the nation's parliament, Kim Yong-nam addressed the crowd instead. He also oversaw the country's first successful nuclear test in 2006.

Kim Jong-un took over as the third in the Kim line after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il in 2011.

Foreign journalists in the North Korean capital posted Twitter photos showing parade floats with large slogans pushing economic development.