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(LEAD) N. Korea preparing military parade for party anniversary: defense ministry

All News 17:58 June 22, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS defense minister's remarks, more info in paras 6-9, 12-13)
By Choi Soo-hyang

SEOUL, June 22 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is preparing to hold a large-scale military parade to mark October's 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party, the defense ministry said Monday, amid speculation that the communist nation could use the event to showcase new strategic weapons.

In a report to the parliament's defense committee, the ministry said new buildings were spotted under construction at the Mirim airfield in Pyongyang, a possible sign the North could showcase an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on Oct. 10.

"The North Korean military is continuing activities to prepare for an event to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the establishment of its party," the ministry said in the report, adding that repair work for Kimilsung Square was also seen to be under way.

The North has used military parades on important national days to flex its military muscle by displaying newly developed weapons, including missiles. It usually holds bigger events to celebrate anniversaries every fifth or 10th year.

The ministry said no unusual movements have been detected in relation to the North's nuclear program, but missile development activities have continued.

"No immediate signs have been detected (regarding the possible launch of ICBMs). But we are open to all possibilities and are closely monitoring the situation," Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo told a parliamentary defense committee session.

Amid stalled denuclearization talks with the U.S., North Korea has carried out major weapons tests since 2019 but has stopped short of launching ICBMs, which are deemed a red line for U.S. President Donald Trump.

Asked about a new submarine that North Korea is building, the minister said that Pyongyang seems "quite close" to securing technologies to launch SLBMs from the vessel, though it is hard to tell if it completed the construction of the new submarine.

The new asset is believed to be a 3,000-ton class submarine and may be capable of carrying three SLBMs.

In this file photo, taken on Feb. 2, 2018, and released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency the next day, Hwasong-15 missiles on mobile launchers are displayed during a military parade at Kimilsung Square in Pyongyang to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of its armed forces. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

The assessment came amid a surge in cross-border tensions after North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office in its border town of Kaesong last week in anger over anti-Pyongyang leaflets sent across the border by activists here.

The North has since threatened to send troops to disarmed border regions and abolish an inter-Korean tension-reduction deal signed in 2018.

"We've kept close tabs on North Korea's moves round-the-clock and maintain a firm readiness posture. If the North carries out any provocative acts, we will take countermeasures immediately," Jeong told lawmakers.

South Korea has been employing a full range of surveillance assets, but it has no plan as of now to raise the military watch condition, he added.

South Korea and the U.S. have also boosted their joint monitoring and intel-sharing in light of the North's threats and will carry out their combined exercises this year at a level similar to last year's, according to the ministry.

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


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