South Korea’s military on Monday revealed that North Korea may have carried out an overnight military parade to coincide with its ongoing ruling party congress in the nation’s capital, Pyongyang.
“Our military detected signs that North Korea held a military parade related to the party congress at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang late at night yesterday,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement reported by South Korean newswire Yonhap.
“South Korea and US military authorities are closely following them, including possibilities that the activity could be a rehearsal,” it added.
North Korea’s strictly controlled state media was silent about the suspected parade, but it reported on Monday that leader Kim Jong-un had been elected as general secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party, taking over the title from Kim Jong-il, his late father.
The move is largely symbolic but further strengthens his position in the authoritarian state where he already wields almost absolute power.
However, contrary to expectations, his sister Kim Yo-jong, who is believed to be one of his closest advisors and who has been attending the congress, was not elected to the party’s Central Committee, a key governing body that includes the powerful politburo.
The reshuffle was held on Sunday during the party’s eighth congress – the first it has held since 2016 – which Kim has used to set out his plans for the reclusive regime’s diplomatic, military and economic policies.
Kim’s opening speech last Wednesday began with the candid admission that the previous five-year economic development plan had “fallen greatly short of its goals” but his familiar fiery rhetoric had returned by the weekend when he called the US “the foremost principal enemy.”
He promised to increased North Korea’s defence capabilities “to a higher level” and boasted that his military was developing new weapons systems including a nuclear-powered submarine, tactical nuclear weapons and advanced warheads designed to penetrate missile systems.
“The development of nuclear weapons will be pushed forward without interruption,” he said in a statement reported by state media, indicating that historic summits held since 2018 with the US and South Korean presidents have failed to curb his nuclear ambitions.
South Korean sources said the suspected parade on Sunday may have been scaled back because of Covid-19 restrictions and bitterly cold weather, and no details have been released about the type of weapons that may have been on display.
The Communist regime last held a parade, also in the dead of night, on October 10 to mark the 75th founding anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party.
It unveiled a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), along with a broad range of new weaponry.
State television the next day showed the ICBM on a transporter vehicle with at least 22 wheels, larger than anything previously displayed and Kim warned that his country would “fully mobilise” its nuclear force if threatened.
Despite the negative signals coming from Pyongyang, Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, vowed on Monday in his New Year’s address to make a “last-ditch effort” to pull off a “great transition” in nuclear talks with the North that have been stalled since the failed summit between Kim and President Trump in February 2019.
“Our will to meet (with North Korea) anytime, anywhere, even in a non-face-to-face formula remains unchanged,” he said.
North Korea may have held secret military parade, reports South The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ The Telegraph.