North Koreans prepare a military parade despite coronavirus concerns

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Military vehicles carry missiles during a military parade in Pyongyang, April 15, 2017

Seoul:

North Koreans wearing medical masks have gathered in the capital, Pyongyang, state media reported this week ahead of an expected major military parade on Saturday, possibly with the country’s newest ballistic missiles.

The holiday marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of Korea’s ruling Labor Party. Events include art and industrial exhibitions, a light show, visits to monuments, and ceremonies to complete construction projects.

Officials in South Korea and the United States say North Korea could use the parade to display a new ICBM.

“There is a possibility that North Korea will introduce new strategic weapons such as new ICBMs or ballistic missiles launched from submarines to attract attention at a time when economic success has been sluggish,” said the South Unification Ministry, that regulates relations with the north, said on Thursday.

Union Secretary Lee In-young told lawmakers that deploying a new missile could be a “low-intensity demonstration of violence” ahead of the US presidential election that would be less provocative than a launch or nuclear test.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has not shown an ICBM in a parade since his first meeting with US President Donald Trump in 2018, but their talks have stalled and Pyongyang has signaled increasing impatience with Washington.

“The display of new ICBMs would signal that North Korea is deviating from this strategy and could suggest that North Korea will resume long-range missile testing,” said Jeffrey Lewis, missile researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

State media showed photos of a large crowd of delegates and other visitor masks as they arrived for holiday events.

North Korea has not reported any confirmed cases of the coronavirus, but the government has put tight border controls and quarantine measures in place, and analysts say an outbreak could be devastating for the economically and politically isolated country.

“Such an event is extremely risky in that if few people were COVID-19 positive in the crowd, they could create a deadly super-spreader-like event,” said Harry Kazianis, senior director of Korean Studies at the Center for the National interest in Washington.

(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)

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