(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead with more info; ADDS details throughout, photo)
By Oh Seok-min
SEOUL, Sept. 9 (Yonhap) -- North Korea appeared to have staged a nighttime military parade in Pyongyang early Thursday to mark the 73rd anniversary of the national founding, officials said.
"There have been signs that the North held a military parade in Pyongyang after midnight. Intelligence authorities are analyzing those signs in close coordination with the United States," a military official said on condition of anonymity.
Other details were not immediately known, including if leader Kim Jong-un attended the event and what kinds of weapons were displayed.
But another official said Thursday's parade appeared to have been conducted in a smaller scale than the previous ones held in January this year and in October last year.
"It seems to have lasted for about an hour and involved a smaller number of troops and equipment. I think the parade was mainly for domestic audiences," he added.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) has said it is closely following the North's preparations for major events, such as a military parade, ahead of its state and ruling party founding anniversaries on Sept. 9 and Oct. 10, respectively.
The North last staged a military parade in January after a rare party congress and showcased a new submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and other advanced ballistic missiles. In October last year, it also held a massive nighttime military parade, displaying new types of SLBM and an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
North Korean state media has stayed silent on the event as of early Thursday. State TV could air footage of the parade later Thursday just as it did after the previous parades.
The latest parade, if confirmed, will mark the North's first major public display of its military assets since U.S. President Joe Biden took office. The January event was held days before Biden's inauguration.
The move came amid stalled denuclearization talks between the U.S. and North Korea. Washington has said it is ready to hold talks with the North anywhere, at anytime, but the communist country has remained unresponsive to U.S. overtures.
Last month, the North warned of "a serious security crisis" in protest against the major combined exercise between South Korea and the U.S. Some have expected the North to carry out major weapons tests or to undertake provocations, but the JCS has said the North had not shown any unusual military moves.
North Korea last held a military parade on the occasion of the national foundation day in 2018 to celebrate the 70th anniversary. At that time, the communist country did not display ICBMs that could target the U.S., as the event took less than three months after the first summit between Kim and then-U.S. President Donald Trump.
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