Don’t mess with PyeongChangNorth Korea is readying a large-scale military parade on Feb. 8, a day before the opening of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, to celebrate its army founding. Government and military officials confirmed that 13,000 troops and 200 military vehicles are practicing for a military drill at Mirim Airport in the outskirts of Pyongyang. North Korea has moved up the annual military parade usually held on April 24 to Feb. 8 from this year to allegedly mark the founding the Korean People’s Army.
North Korea could carry out both a charm offensive and nuclear threats. It is sending its largest-ever contingent to the PyeongChang Olympics and at the same time could display its latest nuclear artillery, including an inter-continental ballistic missile, submarine-launched missile and nuclear warhead. If it does, all the rhetoric about the PyeongChang Peace Olympics will be of no use.
The government has delayed the annual military drills with the United States to April to ensure a “peaceful” Olympics. It even prevented a U.S. Navy nuclear-powered submarine to anchor at the port of Busan in fears of drawing complaints from North Korea. The submarine is a strategic asset that would come to South Korea’s aid. Having been denied by the Busan base for the first time, the submarine had to return to Japan for fuelling.
Seoul believes that North Korea’s presence at the Olympics would put Pyongyang on the path of denuclearization. But it did not bring up denuclearization during inter-Korean dialogue. This is why conservatives are accusing the Moon Jae-in administration of being overly soft towards Pyongyang to the extent of undermining the alliance with Washington. A military parade showcasing the North’s military capabilities could send the wrong message to the people in the South. The Feb. 8 performance by North Korean artists in South Korea and joint performance planned at Mount Kumgang could be abused as propaganda for North Korea.
The government must demand that Pyongyang not hold a military parade before the Olympics period. It must also explain North Korea’s military movements to the people as the conservative community is already mad about North Korea stealing the limelight during the Olympics. Pyongyang could lose big if it goes ahead with a military parade on the eve of the Olympics.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 25, Page 30