North Korea stages military parade ahead of Winter Olympics

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People carry flags in front of statues of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung (L) and late leader Kim Jong Il during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

North Korea has staged a grand military parade Thursday, one day before the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in neighboring South Korea.

The parade was held to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s armed forces, but it is also an aggressive display of power just before the Winter Olympics, wherein North Korean delegates will be marching alongside the South Korean delegation under a unified flag.

As many as 50,000 people watched the parade, which showcased the authoritarian nation’s military prowess. However, the parade is reportedly smaller and shorter compared to military parades that were done by North Korea in the past.

The country’s state-run media also did not broadcast the event live but aired its coverage several hours after the event ended. The decision to not do a live broadcast was described as an attempt to keep the event low-key.

It is not clear if the footage broadcasted by the media has been edited, as the North Korea’s state media has modified imagery in the past.

The parade featured hundreds of soldiers marching in unison while planes of North Korea’s air force soared above the grounds. It also included a procession of trucks carrying soldiers and military officers as well as a contingent of tanks.

The parade also featured North Korea’s long-range arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles, including the Hwasong-14 and the newly developed Hwasong-15, which the country claimed to be capable of hitting targets in the United States.

The celebration was attended by North Korea’s authoritarian leader, Kim Jong Un, who also delivered a speech celebrating the country’s military. In his address, he said that the parade would show the world that North Korea has developed into a world-class military power.

“As long as imperialism is present on the Earth and US’s hostile policy against North Korea continues, the mission of the Korea People’s Army to be the strong sword that protects the country and people, and peace can never change,” said Kim.