Launch AFP, the latest arms exhibition takes place in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the ruling party, led by their Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un.
In response, South Korea’s unification minister told parliament on Thursday that a “large-scale parade” was anticipated, and satellite images on the 38North website had also indicated a very large parade.
Pyongyang closed its borders eight months ago to try to protect itself from the virus – which first emerged in neighboring China – and is still a confirmed case of infection.
Last month, troops from North Korea shot dead and burned a South Korean fisheries official who was washed into its waters, apparently as a precaution against the disease, sparking outrage in Seoul and a rare apology by Kim Jong Un.
However, this Saturday, it is estimated that thousands of troops will crowd Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square.
The square is named after the founder of North Korea, under the supervision of his grandson, Kim Jong Un, a member of the third-generation family who rules the country.
An increasingly large procession of armored vehicles and tanks is likely to follow, culminating in any missile Pyongyang seeks to display.
North Korea is widely believed to be continuing to develop its arsenal – which it says is necessary to protect itself from a US invasion.
North Korea, along with nuclear negotiations with Washington, has stalled since the collapse of a summit in Hanoi between Kim Jong Un and President of the United States (US) Donald Trump in February last year.
In this grand parade, analysts expect a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) or an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the US mainland to be showcased.
The Labor Party warning means a lot to North Korea because it “has a bigger political and strategic need to do something bigger,” said Sung-yoon Lee, a professor of Korean studies at Tufts University in the US.
Displaying its most advanced weapons “will mark a major step forward in Pyongyang’s credible threat capability,” Lee said.
But unlike on many previous occasions, no international media were allowed to watch the parade, and with many foreign embassies in Pyongyang out of operation due to restrictions amid the coronavirus outbreak, few outside observers would be present.
It was unclear whether the KCTV broadcaster would broadcast the program live as in some of the previous parades, or be broadcast only on television the following day.
The South Korean government has detected their estimate that Kim Jong Un will give a speech at the parade, Yonhap News Agency reported on Friday, citing anonymous sources.
Masks and missiles?
In late December, Kim threatened to demonstrate his country’s “new strategic weapon”, but analysts said Pyongyang would still be careful to avoid jeopardizing its chances with Washington ahead of presidential elections.
Showing off his strategic weapons deep military parade “will be consistent with what Kim Jong Un promised”, while “not provoking the United States with many tests of strategic weapons launches,” said former US-North Korean government analyst Rachel Lee.
The speech to be delivered is expected to be very domestic (normative), about party achievements, unity around the leader and boosting the economy before the Eighth Party Congress, added Rachel Lee, referring to a Labor Party meeting due in January next year.
But Harry Kazianis of the Center for National Interest warned that with thousands of people involved, the parade could turn into a “deadly coronavirus superspreader” unless “extreme precautions” were implemented.
The country’s impoverished health system will struggle to contain a major virus outbreak, and he added that such protective measures appear “very unlikely”.
He said that clearly, masks and missiles? Of course not compatible with each other.