(ATTN: ADDS more details in last 6 paras)
By Oh Seok-min
SEOUL, Oct. 10 (Yonhap) -- North Korea appeared to have staged a large-scale military parade in Pyongyang early Saturday to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.
"Signs have been detected that North Korea conducted a military parade at the Kim Il-sung square at dawn by mobilizing a large number of equipment and personnel," the JCS said in a brief statement.
"South Korean and the U.S. intelligence authorities have been analyzing (the event), including the possibility that it could be the main event, (not a rehearsal)," it added.
Exactly when the parade was held is not yet known, though sources said it appears to have begun before 4 a.m. It is also not immediately known if leader Kim Jong-un attended the event and what kinds of weapons were displayed.
North Korea has been expected to roll out "new strategic weapons," including a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), that Kim pledged to show off in his New Year's Day message amid stalled denuclearization talks with the United States.
The North tends to mark every fifth and 10th anniversary with larger-scale events, such as military provocations, including missile launches and parades of troops, newly developed strategic weapons and other military hardware.
"We are analyzing details of the weaponry that Pyongyang displayed today," a JCS officer said. "No unusual movements by the North Korean military have been detected."
The North's state media stayed mum on the event, and the Korean Central Broadcasting Station did not mention any public events, including a military parade, to be broadcast in its daily schedule Saturday.
Initially, there was a possibility that the Korean Central Television could air the parade live, but some sources said that the state-run broadcaster could record the parade and air it Sunday.
The North last aired a military parade live in April 2017, when it showcased a new ICBM and diverse types of weapons amid heightened tensions with the U.S.
It is quite unusual for the North to stage a military parade before dawn. Past parades have all been held during daytime hours.
"Instead of the blaze of publicity, North Korea seems to be trying to manage the situation ahead of the U.S. elections," professor Kim Young-jun of the Korea National Defense University said.
Despite little progress in negotiations with Washington, leader Kim appeared to have maintained good relations with U.S. President Donald Trump. One day after the U.S. first couple were diagnosed with the new coronavirus, Kim sent a letter to Trump and offered his "sympathy."
The COVID-19 situation could also have affected the decision as a nighttime event might have helped it mobilize a fewer number of people so as to minimize antivirus steps.
The communist country has called for all-out efforts against the new coronavirus, though it has claimed the country does not have a single virus case.
In August, leader Kim Jong-un presided over a key party meeting and instructed officials to prepare "at the best level all the celebrations with peculiar style as a great political festival to be provided as an excellent gift to the 75th birth anniversary of the WPK," according to state media.
"North Korea might have tried to make the event look like a kind of festival, rather than a show of force, in consideration of relations with the U.S.," the professor added.
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