Feb. 7 (UPI) — The easing of tensions that has come with détente between North and South Korea may hit a bump in the road on Thursday, when Pyongyang holds a large-scale military parade.
The parade is expected to start at about 10 a.m. South Korea time, or at 2 p.m., a Seoul government source told Yonhap.
The procession of North Korea’s military could showcase the Kim Jong Un regime’s latest weapons, designed to deter a potential attack from the United States or South Korea.
Aerial images of Kim Il Sung Square in central Pyongyang indicate about 13,000 North Korean soldiers are to march through the city.
A total of 50,000 North Koreans are expected to brave freezing temperatures, including people trained in a mass-choreographed card performance, according to the report.
Aircraft to be on display include AN-2 low-speed interceptors and Sukhoi-25 fighter jets.
Both aircraft were developed by the former Soviet Union.
A significant number of artillery has also been moved to Mirim airfield in preparation for the event, Yonhap’s source said.
There have been no sightings of intercontinental ballistic missiles or sub-launched ballistic missiles, or SLBMs on road-mobile launchers, but South Korean authorities are not ruling out the possibility of their deployment in the parade.
North Korea is holding the parade a day ahead of the opening ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in the South.
Last month, North Korea arbitrarily moved the anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People’s Army to Feb. 8.
Pyongyang has stayed away from missile provocations and nuclear tests since reconciling with Seoul for the duration of the Winter Games and the March Paralympics.
On Wednesday in Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis declined to comment on whether Vice President Mike Pence will meet with North Korean officials during the Olympics, but he also did not rule out the possibility.
“Vice President Pence is quite capable of making the call on that there, while he’s in Korea,” Mattis said.
Mattis also said the situation with North Korea is “firmly in the diplomatic lane,” a reminder the United States has postponed joint exercises with the South for the duration of the games.