U.S., Seoul Watch for North Korea Military Parade After Kim Promises More Nukes

Military and intelligence officials in both the U.S. and South Korea are closely watching for a new North Korean military parade, following reports of an overnight rehearsal for such an event to round off a major ruling party gathering in Pyongyang.

The Yonhap News Agency reported Tuesday that South Korean military officials had detected signs of an overnight military parade on Sunday, possibly in preparation for a daytime repeat in the coming days.

It is expected that Kim Jong Un's regime will hold a parade in the closing days of the eighth congress of the ruling Workers' Party. Opened last week, it is the first such event in five years. Kim has been using the gathering to set out his future priorities, including the expansion and modernization of North Korea's nuclear arsenal.

State media did not report any military parade, which Yonhap said might be a sign that the occurrence was a rehearsal. North Korea usually either broadcasts such parades live or films them, releasing the footage soon after.

North Korean state media did, however, announce that "officials and persons of distinguished services" had been invited as "special guests" for "celebrations" related to the congress, without specifying the nature of the event.

The North's last major military parade was held in October to mark the 75th founding of the ruling Workers' Party. The event made headlines thanks to the inclusion of the nation's newest weapons, including a new intercontinental ballistic missile and a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

South Korea did not offer an explanation for the reports of a military parade when asked to comment. Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesperson Colonel Kim Jun-rak told reporters Tuesday: "Intelligence authorities of South Korea and the United States are thoroughly following and monitoring related moves in close coordination."

The Workers' Party congress has received added attention given it is taking place shortly before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. It remains to be seen what strategy Biden will pursue with regards to North Korea and its nuclear arsenal, but the former VP and his key national security aides have expressed their desire for denuclearization.

Biden has vowed to take a tougher line on Kim's regime than Trump, who celebrated his headline-grabbing summits with Kim and repeatedly lauded his supposed friendship with the young dictator.

Biden will come to power having branded Kim a "thug" and telling voters that the "days of cozying up to dictators are over." North Korea has been similarly dismissive of Biden, last year describing the then-presidential candidate as a "rabid dog" that needed to be "beaten to death with a stick."

Kim opted for an aggressive tone towards the U.S. during the ongoing congress. The dictator branded America the North's "foremost principal enemy" and vowed to develop "more advanced nuclear weapons and missiles" over the coming years.

North Korean military parade watching TV Seoul
A man watches a television news broadcast of a military parade commemorating the 75th anniversary of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party held in Pyongyang, at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea on October 10, 2020. JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images/Getty