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(LEAD) N. Korea invites guests to celebrations of party congress, possibly including military parade

North Korea 11:00 January 12, 2021

(ATTN: RECASTS lead; ADDS military's comments at bottom)

SEOUL, Jan. 12 (Yonhap) -- Officials and others long involved in government affairs have been invited as special guests to "celebrations" arranged to mark the ongoing party congress, Pyongyang's media reported Tuesday, raising the possibility that North Korea might be preparing a military parade.

On Monday, Seoul's military officials said signs were detected that the North carried out a military parade in central Pyongyang Sunday night in time for the eighth congress of the ruling Workers' Party, which has been under way since its opening last week.

State media, however, have not reported on such an event yet, spawning speculation that it might have been a rehearsal and a military parade could take place in the days to come. North Korea has usually broadcast live or aired recorded footage of military parades later.

"The Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) invited officials and persons of distinguished services, who had worked in the Party, the government and the military for a long time, as special guests to the celebrations of the 8th Congress of the WPK," the Korean Central News Agency said, without specifying what the celebrations might be.

The North last held a massive military parade in October to celebrate the 75th founding anniversary of the Workers' Party, showing off its state-of-the-art weapons, including a new intercontinental ballistic missile and a submarine-launched ballistic missile. Leader Kim Jong-un attended the event and delivered a speech.

In an earlier session of the party congress, Kim defined the U.S. as the North's "foremost principal enemy" and vowed to bolster its nuclear arsenal.

Asked to comment on signs of the North's military parade, Seoul's military said Tuesday that activities related to the congress appear to be continuing, without elaborating.

"Intelligence authorities of South Korea and the United States are thoroughly following and monitoring related moves in close coordination," Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesperson Col. Kim Jun-rak said during a regular press briefing.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) attends a military parade at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang on Oct. 10, 2020, to mark the 75th founding anniversary of the Workers' Party, in this photo released by the North's Korean Central News Agency. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

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