N. Korea holds military parade after rare party congress

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In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, bottom center, attends a ruling party congress in Pyongyang, North Korea Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. Kim vowed all-out efforts to bolster his country's nuclear deterrent during the major ruling party meeting where he earlier laid out plans to work toward salvaging the broken economy. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Reuters

SEOUL: North Korea appeared to have staged a military parade on Thursday – an event that would be closely watched by international observers for signs of new military technology – after wrapping up a rare ruling party congress, Yonhap news agency reported.

Pyongyang is under international sanctions for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

The parade, which was not shown live on the isolated nation’s state media, began between 6pm and 7pm and was still going on as of 8pm, Yonhap cited an unnamed South Korean government source as saying.

Military aircraft were spotted releasing fireworks in formation, said NK News, a website that monitors North Korea, citing a source who saw fireworks.

Ahead of the congress, commercial satellite imagery had shown troops rehearsing in formation and NK News cited a source who said they heard heavy vehicles moving in Pyongyang on Sunday.

On Wednesday, Kim Yo-jong, the sister of leader Kim Jong-un and a member of the party Central Committee, criticised South Korea’s military for saying it had detected signs of a parade in Pyongyang on Sunday.

The move was an expression of the South’s “hostile approach” towards the North, she said in a statement carried by North Korean news agency KCNA.

Leader Kim and other North Korean officials had packed into an indoor stadium in Pyongyang on Wednesday to watch performances from military and civilian art troupes and youth groups, mostly on themes of glorifying Kim’s leadership and reinforcing messaging from the party congress, news agency KCNA reported on Thursday.

The congress, which ran for eight days in Pyongyang, was the first since 2016 and just the second since 1980.

The performance was the latest in a series of large gatherings this week where Kim and the other attendees did not appear to wear masks or follow other social distancing measures, based on images released by state media.

North Korea has not reported any confirmed cases of the coronavirus, but it has imposed strict border closures, domestic travel restrictions and other measures to prevent an outbreak.