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North Korea military parade ahead of Winter Olympics
North Korea appears to have held a low-key military parade, a day ahead of the Winter Olympics, South Korean media said.
Its timing drew criticism from the US as it’s the first time in 40 years the annual event has been held in February.
Early on Thursday state television began showing patriotic films in what appeared to be a prelude to a live broadcast of the parade.
But reports later surfaced that it had already taken place.
“It seems that North Korea opened the parade at 10:30 a.m. (Seoul time),” anonymous government sources told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
In 2017, North Korea aired a live broadcast of its military parade on state television. Foreign journalists had been invited to cover the event.
South Korean government officials said last month that some 13,000 troops and 200 pieces of equipment had been spotted near an airport in Pyongyang in what appeared to be a rehearsal for the parade. Experts said Pyongyang was expected to showcase its long-range missiles.
This year’s celebration marks the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Korean People’s Army, which was established on 8 February 1948.
Pyongyang previously held its main military celebration on 25 April, but this year it hit back at US criticism of its decision to bring the parade forward this year.
The military parade came just one day before the start of the Winter Olympic Games, which will run from 9 to 25 February in the alpine town of Pyeongchang in South Korea.
The Games will see both Koreas march under one flag at the opening ceremony.
North Korea’s Olympic delegation, which is led by Pyongyang’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam, will also include Kim Yo-jong, the sister of leader Kim Jong-un. The entourage will travel by plane on Friday to the Games.
But on Thursday North Korea said it has no intention of meeting US officials during the event, according to its official KCNA news agency.
South Korea also asked the UN for an exemption to allow Choe Hwi, a UN sanctioned North Korean official, to attend the opening ceremony together with the rest of Pyongyang’s delegation.
If the UN does not object to the exemption by 15:00 ET (20:00 GMT), the request will be granted.
US Vice-President Mike Pence will also be attending the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang on Friday, saying he wanted to “make sure North Korea doesn’t use the powerful symbolism in the backdrop of the [Games] to paper over the truth about their regime”.
The main organiser of the Pyeongchang Olympics has said that the parade will not affect the “dynamics” of the Olympic Games.
Lee Hee-beom added that all 193 UN member states, including North Korea, have supported the UN Olympic Truce Resolution for the Winter Games.
Under the truce, which begins seven days before the opening of the Winter Games and runs until the seventh day after the closing of the Winter Paralympics, all UN member states are urged to stop all hostilities.