North’s army founding day shifted to eve of Olympics

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North’s army founding day shifted to eve of Olympics

North Korea announced Tuesday it would return to celebrating Feb. 8 as its army founding day and hold “diverse events” - on the eve of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The North did not specify what events it had in mind, but the news came as local military and intelligence officials said they’ve detected signs Pyongyang is preparing a military parade.

North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party made the decision on Monday to change the foundation day for the army from April 25 to Feb. 8.

Feb. 8, 1948 is the date on which North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung founded the Korean People’s Army (KPA). Its predecessor, the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, was established on April 25, 1932 by Kim to fight Japanese colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

The KCNA said that April 25 would from now on be marked as the founding anniversary of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, while Feb. 8 would be the KPA founding day, the "Army-Building Day" on which celebrations will be held.

“The Party organizations at all levels will conduct politico-ideological education and significantly hold diverse events for making the service personnel, Party members and other working people deeply grasp the feats” of Kim, an English version of the KCNA report read.

The Cabinet and other government agencies will take “practical steps” to significantly mark the new founding anniversary, it continued.

It’s not the first time North Korea has changed its army founding day.

From 1948 until 1977, Feb. 8 was recognized as the army’s founding day. That changed in 1978, when the North said it would start marking the anniversary on April 25, and renamed all its memorial halls with Feb. 8 in the title to April 25.

Feb. 8 resurfaced in North Korean media from 2015, mentioned as the founding day of the KPA, but the so-called Army-Building Day was still April 25 during this time. That changed Monday, as the North said the Army-Building Day will fall on Feb. 8 again.

According to a South Korean government source last Thursday, signs have been growing since late last year that the regime might be gearing up for a military parade. Some 13,000 troops and 200 vehicles and artillery were seen lining up near Mirim Airport in the outskirts of Pyongyang.

In a New Year’s address on Jan. 1, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un highlighted that this year was the 70th anniversary of the KPA’s foundation.

If North Korea does mark its army foundation day with a military parade, it would be a day before the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games on Feb. 9 - a challenge to the Moon Jae-in administration’s effort to hold a “peace Olympics,” a goal that required him to ask Washington they postpone annual joint military exercises.

Seoul is known to have suggested to Pyongyang that it preferred the North’s Samjiyon Orchestra to hold its first concert in South Korea on Feb. 8 in Gangneung, Gangwon. Both Koreas agreed last week that the orchestra will perform twice next month, once in both Seoul and Gangneung, but did not settle on the dates.

Meanwhile, in an interview with CBS News that aired Monday, Mike Pompeo, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), said North Korea was only a “handful of months” away from being able to deliver a nuclear attack on the U.S. mainland.

“North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is continuing to expand, advance, become more powerful, more capable, more reliable,” he said.

Pompeo continued that the CIA was “doing things” it “was not doing a year ago” and that “there’s more risk attached to those.”

Asked whether the agency was expanding covert and clandestine operations, he replied, “Oh, most certainly.”

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