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Pyongyang shows its missiles at a military parade on the eve of the Olympics

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – Ed JONES – | Photo provided on 15 April 2017 by the North Korean Kcna agency showing missiles at a military parade in Pyongyang

North Korea held a military parade in Pyongyang on Thursday to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its armed forces, staging its intercontinental ballistic missiles on the eve of the opening of the Olympic Games in the South.

Pyongyang is taking advantage of the Pyeongchang Olympics to conduct a charm offensive, sending artists, hundreds of cheerleaders and the sister of its leader Kim Jong Un to the South.

But regiments of soldiers marched on Kim Il Sung Square, followed by trucks, artillery, tanks and finally giant missiles.

Unlike the last military parade in April 2017, the official North Korean television did not do live, broadcasting images of the hours after the event.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, his wife Ri Sol Ju and North Korea’s head of state Kim Yong Nam, who will head the North Korean delegation to the Olympics on Friday, took the stage in the middle of the fires. fireworks.

Ⓒ KCNA VIA KNS/AFP/Archives – STR – | Photo provided on April 15, 2017 by North Korean agency Kcna showing a military parade in Pyongyang

“We have become able to demonstrate to the planet our status as a world-class military power,” said the North Korean leader. The army must stand ready to prevent invaders from violating the sovereignty of the North “including 0.001 mm,” he added.

“Long life,” cried the assembled soldiers. Some were shown with tears in their eyes as the North Korean leader passed by.

The North announced last month that it will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its army this year on February 8, instead of April 25.

– VIP delegation –

The news took foreign capitals by surprise after the dramatic diplomatic reversal initiated by Pyongyang in early January.

According to analysts, the North intends with this double approach to normalize its status as a “de facto nuclear state”, to try to obtain a softening of sanctions and to push a corner in the Seoul / Washington relationship.

Ⓒ KCNA VIA KNS/AFP/Archives – STR – | Photo provided on April 15, 2017 by North Korean agency Kcna showing a military parade in Pyongyang

Pyongyang is under multiple UN sanctions sanctions because of its nuclear and ballistic programs. Last year, the North fired ICBM capable of reaching the continental United States and conducted a sixth nuclear test, its most powerful to date.

The North generally invites hundreds of foreign journalists to these events, which was not the case this time, perhaps the sign that he intended to keep the upper hand on the perception of the event.

In addition to Kim Yong Nam, who holds the honorary office of head of state, the Northern delegation expected to the South for the opening ceremony of the games will include Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong, an increasingly influential figure. at the top of power.

North Koreans will also be having lunch on Saturday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

– A meeting with the Americans? –

Ⓒ KCNA VIA KNS/AFP/Archives – STR – | Photo provided on April 15, 2017 by North Korean agency Kcna showing a military parade in Pyongyang

US Vice President Mike Pence, expected Thursday in South Korea, will also attend the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Olympics.

It could therefore be in the same room as Kim Yong Nam at the reception of leaders beforehand. This could foreshadow a high-level meeting between two countries whose leaders exchanged personal insults and apocalyptic threats last year.

But Cho Yong Sam, a senior official with the North Korean Foreign Ministry, ruled out any meetings with US authorities.

“We have no intention of meeting US officials during our visit to the South,” he said according to the official KCNA news agency. “We have never begged a dialogue with the United States, and we will never do it.”

Ⓒ KCNA/AFP/Archives – KNS – | Undated photo provided on March 12, 2015 by North Korean agency Kcna of leader Kim Jong-Un (c) and sister Kim Yo-Jong (2 nd), Sin Islet, Kangwon Province

He did not, however, formally rule out a possible meeting, and Mr. Pence, who just shot the North with red bullets, either.

“There may be a possibility of meeting with North Koreans”, formal or otherwise, he said. “We’ll have to wait to see what exactly happens.”

The Olympics, held just 80 kilometers south of the demilitarized zone that divides the peninsula, helped to bring the two camps closer together after two years of tension.

But analysts say the warming is unlikely to last.

In the South, some accuse the government of having made too many concessions to Pyongyang.

US Charge d’Affaires in Seoul Marc Knapper has swept away the possibility that the North will succeed in weakening Washington’s ties with the South.

“It will take more than a North Korean Olympic delegation to undermine this alliance, the more North Koreans will come to see the success of the South the better.”

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