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A parade in Pyongyang to steal prominence to the Pyeongchang Games

Ⓒ AFP/Archivos – Ed JONES – | Military parade for the 105th anniversary of the birth of the late North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung, on April 15, 2017 in Pyongyang

By organizing a military parade on Thursday, the eve of the opening of the “Peace Games” in South Korea, Pyongyang seeks to take advantage of the great media exposure to reaffirm its nuclear power to the world, experts estimate.

North Korea announced last month that this year it would celebrate the 70th anniversary of its Armed Forces on February 8, instead of April 25.

The news surprised abroad, especially since North Korea had undertaken a spectacular diplomatic turn since the beginning of January with the decision to send a delegation to the Winter Olympic Games to be held from February 9 to 25 in Pyeongchang.

The latest satellite images, which date back to Monday, show some 13,000 people rehearsing in a field near Pyongyang, but with a limited number of artillery and armor pieces, according to the US reference website 38North.

“The North declared itself a nuclear state last year,” recalls Park Won-Gon, professor of International Relations at Handong University.

“He wants to ‘normalize’ his military boom and nuclear power status by organizing the parade and participating the next day in the Olympic Games as if nothing, as if there was nothing wrong with that,” he told AFP.

This strategy could be counterproductive. Welcomed by Seoul and the International Olympic Committee, the North Korean presence at the Olympic Games raises the skepticism of many experts who see it as a maneuver to cleanse the image of the regime and alleviate sanctions that weigh on it. But without giving anything in relation to the nuclear issue.

– ‘Farsa’ –

Ⓒ AFP/Archivos – Ed JONES – | Women soldier mark the passage of the goose in the parade for the 105th anniversary of the birth of the North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung, on April 15, 2017 in Pyongyang

The United States has said it would “prefer” that the North Korean parade would not take place on Thursday and the US information website Axios quoted an adviser to US Vice President Mike Pence, who will attend the opening ceremony on Friday, referring to the North Korean participation. as an act of “propaganda”.

“Everything the North Koreans do in the Olympics is a farce intended to hide the fact that they are the most tyrannical regime on the planet,” the adviser added.

The Kim dynasty, which has governed the north of the peninsula for 70 years, perfectly masters the art of monopolizing world attention.

Pyongyang often fired or threatened to test missiles when important personalities visited Seoul or during elections or investiture in South Korea or the United States.

North Korea also stands out for the huge parades in which thousands of soldiers pass through the pass of the goose Kim Il-Sung, before or after the dance of increasingly impressive military vehicles, reflecting the alleged progress of the national ballistics program .

This exhibition of military power is usually held before tens of thousands of spectators and the satisfied look of Kim Jong-Un on the main platform.

North Korea is accustomed to invite hundreds of foreign journalists so that the event has the greatest international impact. Something he did not do this year.

The parades are also a communication operation aimed at the North Koreans “to fight against possible jealousy of the Pyeongchang Olympic Games,” observes Cheong Seong-Chang of the Sejong Institute.

– ‘Do not beg for a dialogue’ –

Ⓒ AFP/Archivos – Ed JONES – | North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un attends a military parade on May 10, 2016 in Pyongyang

“It is a way of saying to them: ‘We have a delay in relation to the South from an economic point of view but an advantage in the military sphere,’ he explains.

In Seoul, this parade is a slap in the face for President Moon Jae-In, a supporter of a resumption of inter-Korean dialogue and who lobbied for a North Korean presence at the Games.

It ends, according to 38North, of crowning “a year of spectacular advances of the nuclear and ballistic programs of the North”.

These types of parades are usually prepared for months. But it seems that the Thursday will be less important than the previous ones, perhaps also due to the freezing temperatures that are registered at this time of year in Pyongyang. And for now, no missiles have been seen in the satellite images.

The fact that there is no guest foreign journalist reflects perhaps a desire to better control the narration of this parade.

The North, South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-Yeon told the deputies, “tries to avoid giving the impression that it provokes the international community.”

Especially when a very high-level North Korean delegation headed by Kim Yong-Nam, who holds the largely honorary position of head of state of North Korea, is expected for the opening ceremony.

“The parade is likely to affirm North Korea’s new nuclear status,” an editorial in the South Korean daily JoongAng reported on Monday.

“We must welcome the athletes of the North,” he wrote, “but we must not beg for a dialogue.”

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