Nuclear-weapon North Korea appears to have staged a giant military parade early on Saturday, Seoul said, with Pyongyang’s newest and most advanced weapons set to be on display in the capital of the country barricaded by the coronavirus.
This eagerly awaited exhibition is part of the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party in the North.
Such events typically feature thousands of soldiers walking through Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, named after North Korea’s founder, as his grandson Kim Jong Un, the third family member in the city, watch. rule the country.
A cavalcade of increasingly larger armored vehicles and tanks usually follows, culminating with the missiles Pyongyang wants to highlight.
Observers watch them closely for clues to the development of his weapons.
“Signs of a military parade – involving large-scale equipment and people – were detected in Kim Il Sung Square early this morning,” Seoul chiefs of staff said in a statement.
South Korean and American intelligence agencies “were following the event closely,” they added.
The parade is part of commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of the founding of Kim’s ruling party, an anniversary that comes amid a difficult year for North Korea as the coronavirus pandemic and recent storms add pressure on the heavily sanctioned country.
Pyongyang closed its borders eight months ago to try to protect itself from the virus, which first emerged in neighboring China, and has yet to confirm a single case.
Last month, Northern troops shot dead a South Korean fisheries official who had drifted in its waters, apparently as a precaution against disease, sparking fury in Seoul and rare apologies from Kim.
“Big step forward”
The North is widely believed to have continued to develop its arsenal – which it says it needs to protect itself from a US invasion – throughout nuclear negotiations with Washington, deadlocked since the collapse of a summit in Hanoi in February of last year.
Analysts expected a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) or intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the Americas to emerge – perhaps even one with multiple re-entry vehicle capabilities. which could allow it to escape the American defense systems.
Workers Party anniversary means North Korea “has a political and strategic need to do something bigger,” said Sung-yoon Lee, professor of Korean studies at Tufts University in the United States .
The presentation of its most advanced weapons “will signal a big step forward in Pyongyang’s credible threat capabilities,” he said.
But unlike on many previous occasions, no international media were allowed to watch the parade, and with many foreign embassies in Pyongyang shutting down in the face of coronavirus restrictions, few outside observers remain in the city.
Foreigners were not welcome at anniversary commemorations, according to the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang, which posted a message from authorities on its Facebook page urging diplomats and other international officials not to “approach or take photos ”of the places.
State broadcaster KCTV did not show any live early morning parades and did not broadcast footage of them at lunchtime.
The North typically held its parades in the mornings and usually broadcasts them in real time or near-live, but the latter two, both in 2018, were broadcast later today or the next morning.
A morning program announced by KCTV on Saturday made no mention of the parade, but instead included a documentary on Kim Il Sung titled “Our Dear Leader” and a cartoon titled “Boy General”.
But the specialized service NK News cited several sources claiming to have heard the noises of planes, drones and heavy machinery in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Masks and missiles?
Kim threatened to demonstrate a “new strategic weapon” at the end of December, but analysts say Pyongyang will always be cautious to avoid jeopardizing its chances with Washington ahead of next month’s presidential election.
Showing off strategic weapons in military parade “would be in line with what Kim Jong Un promised,” while “not provoking the United States as much as testing a strategic weapon,” Rachel said Lee, former North Korean analyst for the US government. .
But Harry Kazianis of the Center for the National Interest warned that with thousands of people involved, it could turn into a “fatal super-spreader-like event” unless “extreme precautions” are used.
The impoverished nation’s crumbling health care system would struggle to cope with a major viral outbreak, and he added that such protective measures seemed “quite unlikely.”
“Obviously, masks and missiles don’t mix.”
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by GalacticGaming staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)