Satellite images show scale of North Korea’s anniversary parade

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Satellite imagery shows North Korea has erected a tented city and mobilised hundreds of trucks and armoured vehicles in preparation for amassive military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the ruling party.

The US-Korea Institute said military units, which began mobilising in May, have been practicing at a mock-up of the venue for Saturday’s parade and mass rally.

The institute’s website 38 North said photos taken on Tuesday show about 800 tents, and more than 600 trucks and 200 armoured vehicles at a former air base in the east of Pyongyang.

The parade is expected to be North Korea’s biggest spectacle since Kim Jong-un took power in 2011.

Though officials have not publicly announced the schedule for Saturday’s events, the day is expected to kick off with a major military parade and mass rally on Kim Il-sung Square in the morning and climax with another mass gathering for a torchlight parade and concert to be held on a special stage set up on the nearby Taedong River, which runs through the capital.

It is not known if Kim himself will speak publicly at any of the day’s events, though he did give reporters a surprise, close-up photo opportunity two years ago when the country held a similarly elaborate celebration for the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

To make sure everyone taking part in the spectacle knows their part, students, work units and other groups have filled public plazas for weeks to hone their marching, flag-waving and slogan-shouting skills.

On Thursday, crowds of students waving red flags and women in brightly colored traditional clothing could be seen in the area around the square. North Korean flags lined the streets.

“We are very proud of the 70th anniversary of the foundation of our party, it’s an honor for us, and with this anniversary we will demonstrate our invincible single-hearted unity,” said Chang Yong-ho, a student who will be taking part.

North Korea’s leadership often uses anniversaries to rally the nation behind the military or the party, while at the same time reinforcing the primacy of the leader himself. The particularly strong emphasis on making the party foundation anniversary this year a lavish fete is also seen by some foreign analysts as a sign that Kim Jong Un is trying to build up the party’s standing relative to the military.

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Though both institutions are strong, the power balance among various government organs in North Korea is a delicate one and maintaining that balance is a key to keeping Kim’s leadership solid and unchallenged.

Giving some credence to that argument, North Korean officials have recently stressed the role of the party in improving the standard of living for the people and a rocket launch that some foreign analysts expected to happen before the anniversary now appears to be unlikely.

 

 

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