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N Korea stages military parade on eve of Olympics


AFP
Seoul
North Korea staged a military parade in Pyongyang Thursday to mark the 70th anniversary of its armed forces, putting its intercontinental ballistic missiles on show just a day before the Winter Olympics open in the South.
The nuclear-armed North is on an Olympics-linked charm offensive, sending a troupe of performers, and hundreds of female cheerleaders to South Korea.
But regiments of soldiers goose-stepped in formation through Kim Il-sung Square on Thursday, followed by trucks, artillery, tanks and finally four giant Hwasong-15 ICBMs -- as well as a band forming the Korean word for"Victory".
Unlike the North's last parade in April 2017 state television did not show the event live, instead airing it hours later.
Fireworks went off as leader Kim Jong-un took his place on the rostrum to watch the display, along with his wife Ri Sol Ju and ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam, who will head Pyongyang's delegation to the Olympics on Friday.
"We ... have become capable of showcasing our stature as a world-class military power to the world," said Kim, wearing a long black coat and black fedora. The military should remain on high alert to ensure that invaders could not violate the North's sovereignty"even by 0.001mm", he said.
"Long live!" cried the assembled troops, their breath condensing in the subzero temperatures and some of them in tears at the sight of the leader.
Analysts say that with the dual approach, the North is looking to normalise its status as a"de facto nuclear state", and could be trying to weaken sanctions against it or drive a wedge between the South and its ally the US.
North Korea is under multiple sets of UN Security Council sanctions over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, which have seen it develop rockets capable of reaching the US mainland.

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