North Korean state media on Friday reported crowds forming in the capital of Pyongyang for a big military parade on Saturday to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea.
South Korean media reported preparations to televise the event, which might include a speech by dictator Kim Jong-un and the debut of a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
“There is a possibility that North Korea will unveil new strategic weapons, such as new intercontinental ballistic missiles or submarine-launched ballistic missiles, to draw attention at a time when its economic achievements have been sluggish,” the South Korean Unification Ministry ventured.
South Korea’s NK News said Saturday’s event is “expected to be the largest military parade in the country’s history.” Foreign journalists have been somewhat unusually told they cannot attend or document the parade, ostensibly over concerns about the Wuhan coronavirus, even though North Korea claims it has not encountered a single case of the disease.
North Korea watchdog site 38 North reported some high-profile construction projects were rushed to completion, or at least apparent completion, to get ready for the big party anniversary. A refurbished VIP viewing stand has been completed and cordoned off to the public. Judging by satellite photos, police have mostly shut down vehicle traffic along the parade route, although thousands of people can be seen moving into the area on foot.
The UK Guardian quoted analysts who expected North Korea could roll out a new ballistic missile during the parade in a show of defiance against the United States, an effort to prove North Korea now has access to the weaponry of superpowers, and a show of strength to inspire a demoralized population.
“The impoverished nation is besieged with crises: its economy, already buckling under the strain of tough international sanctions, took a further hit when North Korea decided to close the border with China, its main trading partner, in January, in a bid to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Adding to that is the devastation wrought by a northern summer of multiple typhoons and severe flooding that by official accounts has left thousands of homes damaged and raised fears of worsening food insecurity,” Al Jazeera News observed.
The Guardian’s experts thought North Korea is more likely to showcase a new missile at the parade than launch one, an act that would be regarded as considerably more provocative. Kim Jong-un said at the beginning of 2020 that he would debut a “new strategic weapon” at the Workers’ Party anniversary event. Some analysts speculate the new weapon could be a submarine-launched ballistic missile, given unusual recent activity at a key North Korean shipyard.
“The Pyongyang Mirim airport now has two new roads and 10 new buildings. Therefore, I think it is likely that we will see Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles [ICBMs] or Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles [SLBMs] on display at the parade this time,” Daily NK editor Lee Sang-yong told the BBC on Friday.
“Also, 600 students and researchers from Kim Il-sung University will also take part,” Lee continued. “This is not an insignificant number. This university is where they develop new talent for missile development. By bringing them to the parade or putting them on display, North Korea may be trying to install pride and respect for the missile development talents.”
Another analyst, Jeongmin Kim of NK News, said the parade would probably be aimed at domestic audiences, using “dazzling parades with uplifting propaganda slogans” to convince the populace “they are ‘doing okay’ despite all of what has been going on this year.”