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Massive crowd gathers in Pyongyang for military parade: report

 A massive crowd has gathered at a public square in Pyongyang to mark a military parade to be held on the eve of the opening of the PyeongChang Olympics, a US broadcaster reported Tuesday, suggesting North Korea will push ahead with the event despite an Olympic detente and international condemnation.

According to Voice of America Korean Service, satellite images captured Sunday morning by Planet Labs showed a massive crowd had flocked to Kim Il-sung Square in central Pyongyang—an image that has not been captured before, although there had been signs of preparations for troops and weaponry.

The images showed the square filled with a crowd colored red, indicating that a large number of North Korean residents -- carrying red flowers and flags -- may have been mobilized for the parade. There were three yellow letters at the center, which appear to be a propaganda slogan.

“We recognize there are preparations underway for a massive military parade,” said Col. Roh Jae-chun, spokesman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “We are working closely with the US to monitor relevant activities.” 

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un waved his hand to massive crowd gathered to celebrate his late grandfather Kim Il-sung’s 100th birthday in 2012. Yonhap
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un waved his hand to massive crowd gathered to celebrate his late grandfather Kim Il-sung’s 100th birthday in 2012. Yonhap

Asked whether intercontinental ballistic missiles could be present during the parade, the spokesman said the event would take place in a “similar pattern” to the most recent parade last April, when the North displayed its new ICBM-class missile.

Combined with the North’s abrupt decision Monday to cancel a joint cultural event with South Korea at Kumgangsan in North Korea, the signs of a military parade have put South Korea in an awkward positon -- pursuing efforts to improve cross-border ties despite persistent concerns over the North’s nuclear threat.

The Moon Jae-in administration reiterated that the military parade is an event for a domestic audience independent of the Olympics, but concerns are emerging over whether it would clash with Pyongyang’s pledge not to engage in hostile activities during the sporting event.

“North Korea has its own internal demands,” an official from the Unification Ministry told reporters under the condition of anonymity. “We are expecting the PyeongChang Olympics to become an opportunity to establish peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

In an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Saturday, Unification Minister Cho Myung-gyun said it is “inappropriate” to link the military parade to the PyeongChang Olympics, downplaying suspicion that North Korea intentionally decided to hold a military parade a day before its athletes walk into the Olympic opening ceremony on Feb. 9.

United Nations General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak on Friday urged all member states to observe the “Olympic truce,” saying all warring parties of armed conflicts should agree to a “true, mutual” cease-fire during the games.

Last November, the UN General Assembly reached a consensus to adopt a resolution calling for an Olympic truce during the Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, which are to be held from Feb. 9-25 and from March 9-18, respectively.

Endorsed by the two Koreas and future hosts of the Olympics, including Japan, the resolution asks UN Member States to ensure the safe passage, access and participation of athletes, officials and all other accredited persons attending the Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games.