Asia/South Asia
6 years ago

N Korea set for military show on Olympic eve

A North Korean flag flies on a mast at the Permanent Mission of North Korea in Geneva October 2, 2014. Reuters/File Photo
A North Korean flag flies on a mast at the Permanent Mission of North Korea in Geneva October 2, 2014. Reuters/File Photo

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North Korea is set to hold its 70th anniversary military parade, a day ahead of the start of the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Pyongyang's annual parade, marking the founding of its armed forces, has been held in April for 40 years.

However, the country's state media announced earlier this year that the date had been changed to 8 February.

North Korea has dismissed criticism of its plans, saying no one had the right to take issue.

"It is a custom and very basic common sense that any country in the world takes the founding of its military very seriously and celebrates it with extravagant events," said the ruling Workers' Party newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun.

The US has said it would rather the parade not take place as the focus should be on the Games.

On Thursday, North Korea said it has no intention of meeting US officials during the Games, according to the North's official KCNA news agency.

South Korean government officials had said last month that some 13,000 troops and 200 pieces of equipment had been spotted near an airport in Pyongyang in what appeared to be a rehearsal for the parade.

Experts say North Korea is expected to showcase its long-range missiles.

"What we should look out for during the parade is North Korea's showcase of its missile vehicles, how many of them there are, and if they are carrying any new missile designs," said David Schmerler, a North Korea analyst at James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

"However, we also need to remember that just because they showcase something doesn't mean they are working on it. In the past, North Korea has paraded missiles that have never come to production."

"In 2012, Pyongyang showcased its Hwasong-13, which was never tested and as far as we know, has been totally abandoned."

Olympic dynamics

This year's celebration will mark the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Korean People's Army, which was established on 8 February 1948. Pyongyang previously held its main military celebration on 25 April.

The military parade comes just one day before the start of the Winter Olympic Games, which will run from 9 to 25 February in the alpine town of Pyeongchang in South Korea.

Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, is to attend the Games, which will see both Koreas march under one flag at the opening ceremony.

US Vice-President Mike Pence will also be attending the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang on Friday, saying he wanted to "make sure North Korea doesn't use the powerful symbolism in the backdrop of the [Games] to paper over the truth about their regime".

The main organiser of the Pyeongchang Olympics has said that the parade will not affect the "dynamics" of the Olympic Games.

Lee Hee-beom added that all 193 UN member states, including North Korea, have supported the UN Olympic Truce Resolution for the Winter Games, reports BBC.

Under the truce, which begins seven days before the opening of the Winter Games and runs until the seventh day after the closing of the Winter Paralympics, all UN member states are urged to stop all hostilities.

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