A South Korean official this week said that North Korea is possibly readying for an “intimidating” military parade on Feb. 8, just before the Winter Olympics are set to begin in PyeongChang on Feb. 9. Others have also speculated that North Korea is ramping up for a large-scale military parade that might include up to 5,000 of its soldiers, based on satellite images.
South Korea is hoping that the international event would promote peace – especially in light of the two Koreas recently talking for the first time in two years, and North Korea deciding to send athletes and a delegation to the Olympics.
N. Korea is talking a lot about peace in the runup to the Olympics. A military parade planned perhaps for the day before the opening ceremony is a reminder that Pyongyang hasn’t slowed down on the military side.https://t.co/zdtj2fN0Fz
— Jonathan Cheng (@JChengWSJ) January 25, 2018
South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said the North’s parade would mark the 70th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army, and that North Korea recently designated Feb. 8 as its armed forces’ anniversary.
“There is a high possibility that the North could hold an intimidating military parade by mobilizing sizable numbers of military personnel and almost all of its weapons,” Cho said, the South Korean Yonhap News reported.
“The North seems to be preparing for major events massively on the ground as the regime marks the 70th anniversary of its creation, and its leader Kim Jong Un apparently wants to show his absolute power,” Cho said, Yonhap reported.
“The public and the international community probably have grave concerns (about the North’s parade). But (I think) the government’s efforts to make the PyeongChang Games a ‘Peace Olympics’ and the North’s participation in the games could (also mitigate such concerns),” Cho added.
However, the North Korean anniversary has not always been Feb. 8.
North Korea set up the KPA on Feb. 8, 1948, and celebrated the date as the founding anniversary until 1977. But in 1978, the country switched the anniversary to April 25, the date when the late founder Kim Il Sung created anti-Japanese guerrilla forces in 1932.
North Korea recently announced it would send athletes to the Winter Olympics in South Korea. It will also be sending a 230-person cheering squad.
On Jan. 3, North Korea reopened a once dormant telephone hotline that links directly to South Korea, and the two countries spoke for 20 minutes, this in advance of the historic North-South Korean meeting that took place – it was the first time negotiators met in two years.
Both North Korea and South Korea planned to re-open a second military hotline on the Korean peninsula. The red and green phone system is one of 33 direct lines that the two countries once used to communicate. The particular hotline that was reopened is located in the “truce village” of Panmunjom in the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas.
On Jan. 4, following the opening of the hotline, President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to delay scheduled joint military exercises during the Winter Olympics next month.
On Jan. 9, North Korea agreed to send athletes to the Winter Olympics. Earlier that day, South Korea had said it would temporarily lift sanctions on North Korea so that they could participate in the Olympic Games. South Korea also proposed at that time that North Korean athletes should march with South Korean athletes during the Winter Olympics’ Opening and Closing ceremonies.
North Korea’s delegation to the Olympics in South Korea will include athletes, a cheering squad, a performance-art troupe, observers, a taekwondo demonstration team and journalists, according to a statement from South Korean Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung.