North Korea preparing for military parade
North Korea is preparing a huge display of its military strength in a parade on the eve of 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, it was announced on 18 January.
Pyongyang, which has rattled the international community with its nuclear and missile tests in recent months, has agreed to send athletes to the Games and march with the South under one flag at the opening ceremony.
But North Korea has also vowed to press ahead with commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of its military. The country is reportedly planning a major parade on 8 February, a day before the Olympic opening ceremony.
Approximately 12,000 soldiers, artillery and other weapons are expected to feature at the spectacle in an airfield near Pyongyang.
An unidentified South Korean government source said: ‘We believe the North will hold a military parade on 8 February to mark the anniversary of the birth of its regular forces.’
A South Korean defence ministry spokesman said the ministry does not comment on ‘any matters of military intelligence.’
While North Korea frequently holds military parades to mark a variety of anniversaries, the country varies the dates it marks from year to year.
In 2017, Kim Jong-Un, Supreme Leader of North Korea, staged a giant spectacle showcasing a range of weaponry, including what appeared to be a new intercontinental ballistic missile, in an event on 15 April marking the 105th anniversary of the North's founder.
Kim Jong-Un, who launched a flurry of missiles and the North's sixth and largest nuclear test in 2017, mentioned plans for a large celebration of the army's 70th anniversary in his 2018 New Year address, urging the military to ‘organise combat drills like real battles.’
Kim also used the speech to offer to take part in the South's Pyeongchang Games, billed by Seoul as a ‘Peace Olympics’ which will be held some 80 kms from the heavily fortified border.
The outlook for the sporting event has enhanced since North Korea confirmed its participation, easing security concerns over nuclear-armed Pyongyang.
The neighbours, who opened long-dormant communications to organise the North's participation, have agreed to field a united team in the women's ice hockey.