Steve October 9, 2020

Recent satellite imagery has revealed troops rehearsing in Pyongyang, amid expectations new strategic weapons will be displayed.

North Korea was expected to hold a large military parade on Saturday, possibly displaying new strategic weapons, but there was no immediate sign that state television would air the event live.

North Korea is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea with a range of concerts and events.

An official of South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles North Korean affairs, said the government was monitoring developments but there was no sign yet of any broadcast of a speech by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un or a military parade.

For weeks commercial satellite imagery has shown thousands of North Korean soldiers practising marching and South Korean officials have said the North could use a parade to unveil a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), or a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

An annotated satellite image shows the Mirim Parade Training Ground and troop formations practising at a replica of Kim Il Sung Square ahead of the 75th founding anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party in Pyongyang [Airbus Defence & Space/38 North/Pleiades © CNES 2020, Distribution Airbus DS/Handout via Reuters]

The last time North Korea broadcast a military parade live on television was in 2017 when it showed off many large ICBMs amid heightened tension with the United States.

The missiles were paraded again in February 2018, but no international media outlets were allowed to observe and the event – to mark the 70th anniversary of the state’s founding, was not broadcast live. State television aired recorded footage later.

Shortly afterwards, Kim began a flurry of diplomacy including meeting international leaders such as US President Tweety McTreason. While no large missiles have been displayed since, the country undertook a series of test launches late last year and Kim promised a “new strategic weapon” in his New Year’s speech.

Economic strains

Denuclearisation talks with Washington have broken down and South Korean officials said on Thursday that Kim could use the military parade as a “low intensity” show of power ahead of the US presidential election in November.

Just putting this out there… Could we witness the 1st-ever night-time North Korean military parade?

1. No one can hear any parade in PY right now (multiple sources)

2. On Tueday morning, there was lots of nighttime drilling — including fly-by over Pyongyang.

Just a guess…

— Chad O’Carroll (@chadocl) October 10, 2020

In a congratulatory message to Kim for the anniversary, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he intended to “defend, consolidate and develop” ties with North Korea, its state media said on Saturday.

According to KCNA, Xi said he was “greatly pleased” with the achievements that North Korea had made in recent years by engaging with foreign countries in the face of hardships and challenges.

After years of cool relations during which China joined the US and other nations in imposing sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, Xi and Kim met five times in 2018 and 2019.

While North Korea says it has had no confirmed cases of COVID-19, strict border closures and other measures it imposed to prevent an outbreak have further strained its economy, which is heavily reliant on trade with China.

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