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Politics

North Korea hosts military parade on eve of South's Olympics

Pyongyang shortens length of the event amid mood of detente on the peninsula

North Korean soldiers march during a military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea on Feb. 8, as seen on Korean Central Television.   © Kyodo

SEOUL - North Korea hosted a large-scale military parade in Pyongyang to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Korean People's Army on the eve of the South's first Winter Olympic Games, the North's state news agency reported Thursday.

But Pyongyang shortened the annual parade compared with previous ones, signaling that it has no intention to spoil the games, which South Korean President Moon Jae-in sees as an opportunity to re-engage with the North and help bring peace to the Korean Peninsula.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, wearing a black coat and hat, appeared with his wife Ri Sol Ju, who wore a black robe. Tens of thousands of soldiers marched in front of them, demonstrating the military power of the isolated country.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un applauds during the parade on Feb.8, as seen on Korean Central Television.   © Kyodo

"This parade will show the world that we have a strong military power," said Kim in his speech from a high podium in Kim Il Sung Square, which takes its name from his grandfather, North Korea's first leader. "We should accelerate our preparation for battle."

During the parade, North Korea demonstrated its new intercontinental ballistic missile named Hwasong-15, which it claims can reach the U.S. mainland. It also showcased its previous ICBM model, the Hwasong-14, which can fly up to 9,000km.

The parade began at 11:30 a.m. and lasted for one-and-a-half hours, about half as long as last year's event. The North also cancelled its invitation for international media to the parade, in an apparent attempt to keep it low-key. Analysts say Pyongyang shortened the event to maintain the harmonious mood on the peninsula on the eve of what Moon has dubbed the "Peace Olympics."

The event came one day before Kim Jong Un's younger sister Kim Yo Jong comes to the South, as part of delegation to celebrate the games. She will have lunch with President Moon on Saturday, the Blue House announced, raising speculation about whether she will bring a letter from her brother.

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