A Washington think tank claimed on Thursday that commercial satellite footage showed apparent preparations for a military parade in North Korea, amid hopes that the nation could demonstrate significant military breakthroughs or fire additional missiles over the holidays.
The news: Several hundred people were spotted in formation at Pyongyang’s Mirim Parade Training Ground, which is built to look like the city’s Kim Il Sung Square, where parades are generally held, according to 38 North, a North Korean monitoring organisation.
- More than 240 buses were parked nearby, but no big military hardware, such as North Korea’s ballistic missiles, was visible, according to the report.
- “That could indicate an upcoming event will consist largely of people or that they are yet to arrive,” 38 North said.
- The news comes a day after South Korean news outlet NK News claimed knowledgeable sources and satellite imagery to suggest that Pyongyang has been preparing for a parade, with jet planes flying above Pyongyang and marching formations at the training area, since late January.
- On Feb. 16, North Korea will commemorate the 80th birthday of leader Kim Jong Un’s late father, Kim Jong Il, and the 110th birthday of his late grandpa, Kim Il Sung, the country’s founder, on April 15.
- Both are important holidays in North Korea, which frequently uses them to show off its military power with big parades including goose-stepping soldiers and rows of armaments, including its large missiles in some cases.
- North Korea does not announce these kinds of events in advance, but over the last several years, training at the Mirim Parade Training Ground has usually begun one to several months ahead of the festivities.
What’s important: In January, North Korea conducted a record seven missile tests, and it has hinted that it may resume tests of its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missiles or nuclear bombs for the first time since 2017, despite delayed denuclearization discussions with the US.
- North Korea could use the holidays to test a significant new missile or other weapon, according to analysts.
- Outgoing South Korean President Moon Jae-in said this week that a restart of North Korea’s nuclear or long-range missile tests would “instantly” plunge the peninsula back into crisis, and called for efforts to prevent this.