North Korea appears to have held a military parade to celebrate the 110th birthday of its deceased state founder Kim Il Sung, NK News said, but there were no indications whether new weaponry was displayed.
Jets and helicopters were heard flying low over the city center Thursday night, and roads were closed in parts of the capital, the specialist news service cited sources in Pyongyang as saying.
The event comes as leader Kim Jong Un, the grandson of the state founder, ramped up regional tensions last month by testing an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time since 2017 and appears to be preparing for his first test of a nuclear bomb in more than four years.
A military parade would be the first in about seven months. In October 2020, Kim Jong Un put on a big display of new weaponry at a parade to mark the 75th anniversary of its ruling party. That event included a display of a new missile designed to strike the US that was described by experts as the world’s largest road-worthy intercontinental ballistic missile.
That ICBM known as the Hwasong-17 appears to have blown up shortly after launch in a failed test last month.
North Korea in recent years has held military parades at night and then broadcast an edited version several hours later on official media. Its state radio said there will be youth dance celebrations and fireworks Friday from 7 p.m. in central Pyongyang to celebrate the holiday it calls the “Day of the Sun,” NK News and Yonhap News Agency reported.
The US Navy dispatched an aircraft carrier group this week to waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan for the first time since 2017. The show of force comes as the Biden administration is trying to limit Pyongyang’s provocations as it confronts the security and economic challenges posed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
North Korea is preparing for some of the biggest events on its political calendar that include nationwide celebrations Friday for what would have been the 110th birthday for Kim Il Sung and the April 25 anniversary of the foundation of its army. North Korea has used the celebrations before to show off its military might, parade new weapons through the streets of Pyongyang and hold rallies demonstrating support for its leader.
Pyongyang could try to steal the spotlight from South Korea’s inauguration of a new president on May 10 with a nuclear test, the DongA newspaper reported Tuesday, citing an unidentified South Korean government official.
While Kim has been signaling plans to resume major weapons tests for more than two years, the US’s campaign to punish Russia over its invasion of Ukraine has reduced the risk of getting hit with sanctions for such provocations. Any additional measures from the UN Security Council would require support from Russia and China, which has led the criticism of Washington’s efforts to squeeze Moscow economically.
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