North Korea staged a large military parade on Thursday, just one day before the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The parade was reportedly held to commemorate the 70th anniversary of founding of the country’s armed forces, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News, but it also marks a display of power mere hours before the North is expected to march under a unified flag with the delegation from South Korea.
The Associated Press reported that tens of thousands of people watched and participated in the parade, but Yonhap noted that the display was both smaller and shorter than past similar events. The parade was also not broadcast live, a decision that Yonhap described as “an attempt to keep it low-key.”
Foreign media was largely absent at the event, but Michael Spavor, the head of a non-profit consulting firm that facilitates work in North Korea, tweeted several video and photos he said were taken from the sidelines of the parade:
Images taken at the parade showed a procession of trucks carrying soldiers and military personnel passing large crowds, followed by a contingent of tanks. Footage from the official broadcast also showed what looked like several intercontinental ballistic missiles, including the newly developed Hwasong-15s, which North Korea claims is capable of hitting the U.S.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un also delivered a speech celebrating the country’s military prowess.
Nearly 300 North Koreans crossed the Demilitarized Zone between the two countries on Wednesday to participate in the Olympics, including 229 women that were part of a large “cheering squad,” The Washington Post reported. They will soon be joined by a high-level delegation of senior officials, including North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong. They are scheduled to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Saturday.
The Post notes that if the visit goes forward, she would be the first member of the Kim family to ever visit the South, a significant development in the fraught relationship between the two nations.
Kim is expected to arrive on Friday for the Opening Ceremony and stay for three days. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who is also attending the games this week, told reporters on Thursday that he has no plans to meet with North Korean officials.