(ATTN: ADDS minister's comments in para 5-6, 12-13)
By Koh Byung-joon
SEOUL, Oct. 8 (Yonhap) -- North Korea could unveil newly developed strategic weapons, such as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), during this week's widely expected military parade in a bid to strengthen internal unity amid economic difficulties, the unification ministry said Thursday.
Other new weapons the North could show off include a transporter erector launcher vehicle and a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), the ministry said in a report to the parliamentary audit. The parade is expected to take place Saturday to mark the 75th anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party.
"North Korea is expected to stage a large-scale military parade and other events to mark the 75th party founding anniversary this week in a bid to consolidate unity and close ranks behind the party," the ministry said.
"There is a possibility that North Korea will unveil new strategic weapons, such as new intercontinental ballistic missiles or submarine-launched ballistic missiles, to draw attention at a time when its economic achievements have been sluggish," it added.
During a parliamentary audit, Unification Minister Lee In-young said the North is expected to engage in "low-intensity" acts aimed for a show of force this weekend but without going as far as test-firing missiles.
"Previously, the North would go strong to demonstrate its nuclear and missile capabilities when U.S. presidential elections came near, and it included test-firing (of missiles)," Lee told lawmakers. "This time, our analysis is that the North will stop short of such things and opt just for a low-intensity demonstration of force."
North Korea tends to mark every fifth or 10th anniversary with larger-scale events, such as military provocations, including missile launches, or parades of troops, newly developed strategic weapons and other military hardware.
This year's draws special attention as leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year's message that he will soon showcase a "new strategic weapon," expressing frustration with little progress in denuclearization negotiations with the United States.
Inter-Korean relations have also been in a deadlock, and ties worsened recently after North Korea blew up the liaison office in its border town of Kaesong and vowed to sever all cross-border communications lines in June in anger over anti-Pyongyang leaflets sent from the South.
The ministry said the North could seek a change from the current stalemated status quo in its ties with South Korea and the U.S. following this week's national holiday and the November presidential election.
"North Korea has focused mostly on stabilizing the lives of its people in the face of typhoons and the antivirus campaign so far in order to consolidate its internal unity," the ministry said. "We expect the North could explore ways for strategic response to its relations with South Korea and the U.S."
During the parliamentary audit, Minister Lee also said the momentum for dialogue with the North could gain traction after the U.S. presidential election next month, saying he is closely watching for any such possibility.
Lee, however, said the chances appear to be low that there might be an "October surprise" meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim.
Meanwhile, with regard to the North's killing of a South Korean fisheries official drifting near the western maritime border late last month, the ministry called it "an inhuman act" and reiterated the need for "joint solutions" to prevent such an incident from taking place again.
The ministry also said it will take a "cautious" approach in pushing for envisioned cross-border cooperative projects but continue to seek "small-scale" exchanges in the humanitarian area in consideration of evolving situations.
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