Previous parades have featured missile launchers, but including them on this occasion would have been diplomatically provocative.
The absence of nuclear-capable missile systems was seen as a conciliatory gesture during a period of intense diplomatic outreach and negotiation.
In his New Year's message in January, Kim had pledged to celebrate the country's 70th anniversary with "utmost grandness" after declaring the completion of nuclear capability and vowing to shift its focus to economic development.
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In April 2017, as tensions with Trump were escalating, Kim paraded a series of missile canisters through Kim Il Sung Square that foreshadowed his later test of a rocket capable of reaching Washington.
Before the event, experts speculated that North Korea may choose not to display the weapons to avoid antagonizing US President Donald Trump.
Trump said on Friday that Kim has sent a letter to him, which he believes will be positive. There is nothing like good dialogue from two people that like each other!
And with tens of thousands of troops, thousands of tanks, and hundreds of aircraft expected to roll through Pyongyang today in an anniversary parade - today could be the day Kim breaks his silence.
Numerous tanks and other vehicles at the parade still bore a slogan on the front: "Destroy the U.S. imperialist aggressors, the sworn enemy of the DPRK people!"
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"All Koreans should join forces to accomplish unification in our generation", the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper wrote in an editorial.
Immediately after the parade thousands of citizens walked through the square, escorting floats displaying economic themes and calls for Korean reunification.
Although North Korea stages military parades nearly every year, and held one just before the Olympics began in South Korea in February this year, the latest parade came at a particularly sensitive time.
But too militaristic a display this time might have risked upsetting the recent diplomatic dalliance on the peninsula, after Kim's Singapore meeting with Trump in June and his third summit with the South's President Moon Jae-in due in Pyongyang later this month.
Despite no agreement yet between Pyongyang and Washington on the denuclearization process the two agreed to at their landmark Singapore summit in June, and with Pyongyang demanding the U.S. agree to a peace treaty to end the 1950-53 Korean War, there have, over the last week, been some encouraging signals.
The combining of military and civilian sections is a familiar North Korean parade format.
"If Kim had shown ICBMs with Li watching the parade, it would have been a huge embarrassment to Xi", said Shin Beom-chul, a senior researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. "Although trying to take the spotlight off of their nuclear program might mean that they're confident that their nuclear capabilities are fulfilling their goal of getting R.O.K./U.S.at the table". "He had promised a "grand celebration" of the foundation day, but there were not many things to celebrate on nuclear talks or economic development". Kim waved to the crowd before leaving but did not make any public remarks.
Speculation that Xi might reciprocate for the anniversary did not come to pass - Hu Jintao was the last Chinese president to visit in 2005 - but O'Carroll said it appeared that Pyongyang was looking to promote its friendship with Beijing.
Li stood at Kim's right during the parade, underlining the marked improvement in relations between the neighbors this year, with Kim traveling to China three times to meet Xi.