SEOUL – North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un presided on Thursday over a military parade staged to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army, one day before the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea.
Kim Jong-un, along with his wife Ri Sol-ju, witnessed the parade in Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang from the balcony of the Grand People’s Studies House, as shown by the state broadcaster KCTV.
The international media did not have access to Thursday’s parade, which started around 10:30 am, and the state broadcaster did not broadcast it live.
Pyongyang waited until the first afternoon news bulletin before releasing the first images of the event.
The North Korean leader, who did not make any mention of the Winter Games or nuclear weapons development, said that his country’s army must maintain a high-level of combat readiness due to tension on the Korean peninsula.
He added if the first parade staged 70 years ago in the square reflected the solemnity of a new country, the one held Thursday would show the world North Korea’s military strength.
At the event, held at about 10 degrees below zero, the regime displayed its entire arsenal of powerful missiles, including its latest intercontinental ballistic missile – the Hwasong-15.
In January, North Korea announced it would mark the founding of the Korean People’s Army on Feb. 8, a day before the start of the Winter Olympics in the South Korean county of PyeongChang, which led to fears it might jeopardize the agreements reached to facilitate the North’s participation in the Winter Olympics.
The historic agreements facilitated participation of athletes and a visit by a senior North Korean delegation, including Kim Jong-un’s sister, and both countries agreed to a joint march under the same unified flag at the opening ceremony of the Winter Games.
These agreements came after Seoul and Washington postponed their annual military drills – which Pyongyang sees as a rehearsal for invasion – so that they do not coincide with PyeongChang 2018 and thus avoid any new weapons tests by North Korea during the Games.
The last military parade in North Korea was held on April 15, 2017, to mark the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, and which is its biggest national holiday.
At that time, the Pyongyang regime had rolled out a monumental display of weapons and new missiles, witnessed by its leader, Kim Jong-un, and scores of international media, and the event triggered alarm among the global community.