North Korea is expected to show off its latest military technology in a giant parade in Pyongyang on Saturday, despite the health threat, to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party.
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South Korea’s Unification Ministry told parliament on Thursday to expect “a full-scale parade” and a study of the satellite photos sends the generally well-informed 38North site to say that the anniversary celebration could be huge.
The event takes place in a very heavy domestic context due to the impact of the pandemic and a series of typhoons which have severely affected this country in the grip of drastic sanctions.
Subject to a series of draconian sanctions from the international community, the country has never confirmed a single case of coronavirus on its soil, as the disease that appeared in neighboring China has spread to all corners of the world.
Pyongyang closed its borders in January in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus.
No foreign media
Last week, North Korean soldiers shot dead a South Korean national who was in northern waters, presumably to avoid the risk of an epidemic if he was a carrier of the coronavirus.
The case sparked an uproar in the South, and was followed by an extremely rare apology from Mr. Kim.
On Saturday, thousands of soldiers are expected to walk at a goose step on Place-Kim-Il-Sung, which owes its name to the founder of the regime, under the eyes of his grandson Kim Jong-un.
The military vehicles should follow one another, each bigger than the other, in a long progression until the highlight of the show, the missiles, according to what Pyongyang wants to convey as a message.
Experts are convinced that North Korea has continued its nuclear and ballistic programs, which it justifies by the American threat, including during negotiations with the United States, in an impasse for more than a year.
Some experts believe that Pyongyang could exhibit on Saturday a new strategic sea-to-ground ballistic missile (MSBS) or an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the continental United States, or even a missile with multiple reentry bodies that would allow deceive the American defense systems.
And this time, unlike previous parades, no foreign media were invited. Many embassies are closed due to coronavirus restrictions, so the number of foreign observers will be limited.
Masks and Missiles
It is not yet clear whether state television KCTV will broadcast the parade live, or rebroadcast it on a delayed basis, as it sometimes happens.
But the South Korean government saw signs that Mr. Kim was going to speak live during the parade, the South Korean agency reported on Friday without revealing its sources.
At the end of December, the North Korean leader threatened to present a “new strategic weapon”, but some experts believe that Pyongyang does not intend to irritate the White House before the US presidential election.
Displaying these strategic weapons in a parade would be “consistent with Kim Jong-un’s promises,” being less provocative than a military essay, said Rachel Lee, an expert on North Korean issues who previously worked for the government American.
In this context, the message sent by the regime during the parade should especially be aimed at the North Korean population, highlighting “the achievements of the Party, the unity around the leader, the improvement of the economy before the Eighth Party Congress, ”she continued, referring to a meeting scheduled for January.
Still, the event, which involves thousands of people, could be very conducive to the spread of the coronavirus, unless “extreme precautions” are taken, observes Harry Kazianis, of the Center for National Interest.
This kind of measure is however “very improbable”, he continues: “Masks and missiles do not mix well. “