Pyongyang holds parade but keeps it low-key

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Pyongyang holds parade but keeps it low-key

North Korea held a military parade Thursday on the eve of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics to mark its 70th army founding day, but South Korean military officials thought the regime made efforts to keep it low-key - and no new weapons were rolled out.

The North didn’t give prior notice of the event through its state-run media, leaving authorities and reporters wondering whether the parade had been called off at the last minute. Instead of airing it live as in previous cases, the North broadcast scenes from the parade in a special segment of the state-run Korean Central Television at 5:30 p.m., Seoul time.

The foreign press wasn’t allowed to cover the event. A source in Beijing told the JoongAng Ilbo Tuesday that the North Korean Embassy in China had informed foreign reporters late last month to start preparing their visa applications, saying they might soon be allowed to enter Pyongyang, without mentioning the military parade.

Since early last week, however, the embassy told correspondents that the North Korean leadership changed plans for the event and decided not to allow international coverage for reasons unexplained.

In the broadcast, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was featured watching goose-stepping troops from a podium on Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang and a stream of weapons that included the Hwasong- 12, 14 and 15 intercontinental ballistic missiles, all of which North Korea tested last year. No submarine-launched ballistic missiles were shown in the footage.

In a speech, Kim, dressed in a black coat and Homburg hat, urged the military to “accelerate preparations” to fight with “the United States and its followers who are making a ruckus around the Korean Peninsula.”

On Thursday evening, the North’s Samjiyon Orchestra was to hold the first of two planned concerts in the South at the Gangneung Arts Center in Gangwon. Seoul didn’t reveal the official playlist as of press time, saying it was still discussing the matter with the orchestra. But several sources told local media that the art troupe was planning to perform popular South Korean songs from a decade or two ago.

One source who had knowledge of the discussions between the orchestra and South Korean government said on the condition of anonymity that both sides were wrangling over two North Korean songs known to feature socialist lyrics.

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