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[Newsmaker] NK gearing up for massive military parade: 38 North

In this April 15, 2017, file photo, soldiers march across Kim Il Sung Square during a military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP-Yonhap)
In this April 15, 2017, file photo, soldiers march across Kim Il Sung Square during a military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP-Yonhap)

North Korea appears to be preparing a huge military parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party next month despite coronavirus fears, a US-based North Korea monitoring website said Wednesday.

Satellite images of Mirim airfield in Pyongyang taken Aug. 31 provide the first evidence that rehearsals for a massive military parade to be held Oct. 10 are underway, according to 38 North. The images show hundreds of vehicles parked in the parking lots adjacent to the parade grounds and “thousands of troops in formations near or in the area that replicates Kim Il Sung Square.”

“Compared to previous years, training appears to have started slightly later than usual, possibly due to COVID-19 and anti-pandemic measures or severe weather constraints,” it said, adding that preparations were observed about two months ahead of the April 15 parade in 2017 and five months ahead of the Oct.10 parade in 2015. April 15 is when the North celebrates the anniversary of the birth of national founder Kim Il-sung.

The Mirim airfield, located on the eastern side of the capital, has been used as the main rehearsal location for the parades. The parades usually take place at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, in front of a crowd of thousands and high-ranking guests and officials, with national leader Kim Jong-un often making an appearance.

The North regularly stages military parades on major national holidays, flexing its military muscle by showcasing new weapons, including missiles. It usually holds bigger events every five years to mark significant anniversaries such as the 70th and the 75th.

Pyongyang appears to have built around 100 garages at the site, making it impossible for outside observers to detect what kind of heavy equipment will be deployed in the parade, according to the report.

“That said, numerous tire tracks in the newly concreted area servicing the garages indicate heavy activity has taken place in and around the garages,” it added.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry in June also told lawmakers that new buildings were spotted under construction at Mirim airfield and repair work is underway at Kim Il Sung Square, raising the possibility that the North could introduce new military technology and ballistic missiles as Kim Jong-un warned early this year.

Expressing frustration with stalled negotiations with the US, Kim vowed in his New Year’s message to introduce a “new strategic weapon” in the near future.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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