Weapons systems put on display during North Korea's military parade on October 10, 2020. (Rodong Sinmun - News1)

North Korean authorities appear to be making continued preparations for a large-scale military parade. Even in North Korea itself, people had predicted that the country would hold a military parade on Apr. 15 to mark the birthday of late national founder Kim Il Sung. North Korea’s leadership apparently wrestled with the timing of the parade through early April.

According to a Daily NK source in North Korea on Friday, that the military parade would not be held on Apr. 15 was made known in early April. Before the change was made known, the military parade’s headquarters was reportedly planning the event for Apr. 15.

From the time North Korean authorities started recruiting soldiers to participate in the parade in June of last year, they made it clear that the event would mark Kim Il Sung’s birthday, a holiday North Koreans call the Day of the Sun. Not only did the headquarters preparing the parade believe until recently that the parade would be held on Apr. 15, but so did the military units supporting the parade.

In fact, the General Staff Department issued an order last June to the operations and training departments of military units and military schools nationwide on personnel recruitment and training plans for a “military parade to commemorate the 100th Day of the Sun.”

The order explained that the parade would “deeply honor” and “splendidly commemorate” Kim, the “founder of socialist Choson [North Korea] and the sun of the nation” in the hearts of the entire people.

However, Daily NK was unable to determine exactly when and why North Korea’s leadership changed the date of the parade.

That said, within the ruling party, some people said the parade was delayed as the party’s event preparations committee began planning early this year for national commemorative events to be held from late leader Kim Jong Il’s 80th birthday on Feb. 16 to the 90th anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s military on Apr. 25.

In fact, during the Sixth Plenary Meeting of the Eighth Party Congress on Jan. 19, the politburo of the Central Committee adopted a resolution to “splendidly celebrate” the 100th birthday of Kim Il Sung and the 80th birthday of Kim Jong Il.

With the adoption of the resolution, the authorities designated the period from Feb. 16 to Apr. 25 as the “greatest celebratory period of the nation,” ordering organizations throughout the country to emphasize the accomplishments of the first 10 years of current North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s reign on every holiday of the celebratory period.

After the military parade was delayed past Apr. 15, some North Koreans claimed that the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean military is a better holiday to highlight the current Kim’s greatest accomplishment of strengthening national defense than the birthday of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung.

This is because the authorities can underscore that while Kim Il Sung organized his army to resist the Japanese with a few rifles, Kim Jong Un succeeded in giving North Korea a nuclear arsenal amid difficulties while holding firm to the “independent revolutionary line” for the last decade.

Inside North Korea, the authorities are reportedly underscoring that this year is the time to bring the advancement of the nation’s nuclear arsenal to its peak. The country is trying to make optimal use of the current period to develop its nuclear arsenal, with tensions between the US and China and the US and Russia leading to repeated failures by the UN Security Council to place sanctions on North Korea.

Meanwhile, some observers believe the country delayed the parade because it had not completed its arsenal to the point that it could put it on display.

In a telephone conversation with Daily NK, Yang Uk, an associate research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said North Korea appears to be rushing quite a bit in regards to nuclear weapons development. He said the military parade could have been delayed somewhat since the weapons systems they wanted to show off are incomplete.

From Jan. 5 to Apr. 16, North Korea has committed 13 military provocations this year alone. Many kinds of weapons were used in these provocations, including medium-range ballistic missiles, hypersonic missiles, short-range ballistic missiles, long-range cruise missiles, surface-to-surface tactical guided missiles, ICBMs, multiple rocket systems, and “new type” tactical guided weapons.

Rather than showing off the gradual, systematic development of a single weapons system, the authorities appear to have been scrambling to show off a number of weapons systems. Because of this, North Korean authorities may increase the number of previously unveiled weapon systems in this parade, or fix up the exteriors of incomplete systems to put on display.

Yang said that if North Korea cannot display any new weapons, the country could roll out several hypersonic missiles or show off launch systems like mobile rocket launchers. He also speculated that North Korea — feeling the need to emphasize its strategic weapons — could focus on warheads, displaying MRVs or MIRVs.

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Seulkee Jang is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.