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Seoul closely monitoring N. Korea ahead of army's founding anniversary

All News 11:39 February 07, 2020

By Choi Soo-hyang

SEOUL, Feb. 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is closely monitoring North Korea on the eve of the 72nd anniversary of its army's founding, the unification ministry said Friday, though Pyongyang is likely to skip a massive military parade this year due to the new coronavirus.

The "Army-Building Day," which commemorates the 1948 establishment of the Korean People's Army, is one of North Korea's biggest national holidays.

Asked to comment on any signs of the North's preparations for a possible event to mark the anniversary, Cho Hey-sil, the ministry's deputy spokesperson, said there is "nothing special" to report.

"Since the anniversary is tomorrow, we will continue to keep an eye on related moves," she told a regular press briefing.

North Korea held a massive parade in 2018 showing off weapons and other military hardware to mark the 70th anniversary but quietly celebrated the day last year, which came just weeks before leader Kim Jong-un held the second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Pyongyang could also skip such a provocative show of force this year as it is focused on efforts to stem the spread of the deadly virus into the country. North Korea also usually holds large-scale events on every fifth or 10th anniversary.

Last month, North Korea declared the launch of a national emergency system against the virus, calling it a "political matter" that could determine the fate of the country.

Amid no confirmed case of the novel virus in the country, North Korea has tightened its borders with China and increased quarantines for people coming from the neighboring country.

North Korean state media outlets, meanwhile, have been kicking up a commemorative mood to celebrate the upcoming anniversary.

"The Korean People's Army is ... the trustworthy guardian of peace that protects the safety of our country against the hostile forces' invasion plot," the North's official Korean Central News Agency said.

North Korea switched the army anniversary back to Feb. 8 in 2018 after having observed it on April 25 since 1978. April 25 is the date when the founding leader created anti-Japanese guerrilla forces in 1932 during Japan's colonial rule of Korea.

North Korean soldiers march during a military parade at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on Sept. 9, 2018, to mark the 70th anniversary of North Korea's founding day, in this photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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