Satellite images show hundreds of personnel standing in formation at a training area in Pyongyang’s capital, a likely indication that the country is preparing for a military parade in the wake of its recent missile launches that have heightened international tensions.
It was reported Wednesday by the 38 North website, which specialises in North Korea research, that images captured on February 5 at Pyongyang’s Mirim airport — where previous military parade rehearsals took place — might be indicative of an upcoming military parade.
Another North Korean-monitoring website, NK News, said on Wednesday that there had been evidence of intensified preparations for a military parade in Pyongyang in recent weeks, which is consistent with previous reports. There were unnamed knowledgeable sources on the ground and satellite images that were mentioned in the report.
North Korea frequently commemorates important anniversaries with parades and other displays, and the websites noted several upcoming events, including the 80th birthday of Kim Jong Il, the late father of current leader Kim Jong Un, and the 110th birthday of Kim Il Sung, the late grandfather of Kim Jong Un, both of whom will be celebrated next week in Pyongyang.
In North Korea’s 25 million inhabitants, the three Kims, who have ruled the country consecutively since its founding in 1948, are the focus of a powerful personality cult centred on their leadership. Birthdays of the late Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are celebrated as the country’s most important holidays, and the country’s powerful Politburo recently decided to mark their upcoming birth anniversary “with splendour” and to designate them as “the great festivals of victory and glory that will shine long in the annals of the nation.”
North Korea has not revealed what celebrations it would have to commemorate the forthcoming birth anniversaries of its leaders. But on previous birthdays and other important state anniversaries, North Korea often paraded troops and modern weapons systems across a central Pyongyang plaza in order to promote unity and threaten its adversaries, as shown in the video above.
North Korea conducted a series of missile tests last month, which some analysts believe was an effort to build up its arsenals and put pressure on the Biden administration to make concessions such as sanctions easing. In the midst of the Winter Olympics in China, North Korea looks to be taking a break from nuclear testing, but many believe the country may resume larger-scale nuclear tests after the games.
The defence chiefs of the United States, South Korea, and Japan held a conference call on Thursday, during which they stressed that North Korea’s recent missile tests “are destabilising to regional security,” and they pledged to continue efforts to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, according to a release from the United States Department of Defense. The United States’ commitment to the protection of Japan and South Korea, according to the statement, is “ironclad.”
During the phone discussion, South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook branded the North’s nuclear tests as “a direct and severe danger to us” and said that Seoul will strengthen its own military capabilities as well as its military alliance with the United States, according to his ministry.
However, it is unclear if the latest claimed parade preparations were in connection with Kim Jong Il’s birthday or the birthday of Kim Il Sung.
According to the 38 North website, training at the Mirim airport has traditionally begun one to several months before the celebrations. Earlier this month, the South Korean military said that it had discovered indicators that North Korea was preparing for military demonstrations.
According to the website, significant numbers of trucks and other military vehicles were often stationed in the fields around the rehearsal area in the days before past parades. It said that such cars were not visible in the present photograph, suggesting that the future event would be mostly comprised of people or that the vehicles had not yet arrived.