SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Saturday celebrated the 75th anniversary of its ruling party with outside observers expecting leader Kim Jong Un to take center stage in a massive military parade in capital Pyongyang, where the North could possibly unveil the latest weapons in its growing nuclear force threatening U.S. allies and the American mainland.
It wasn’t immediately clear as of Saturday morning whether any events were proceeding.
A programming schedule announced by North Korean television didn’t include plans to broadcast a military parade and mass rally, which South Korean government officials and private analysts have said were being prepared at Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square.
While North Korean TV had provided live coverage of a 2017 military parade honoring the birth of Kim’s late grandfather and state founder Kim Il Sung, the next two military parades in 2018 were recorded and broadcast later.
This year’s anniversary comes amid deadlocked nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration and deepening economic woes, which analysts say are shaping up as one of the biggest tests of Kim’s leadership since he took power in 2011.
South Korean officials and analysts have said North Korea could showcase a new intercontinental ballistic missile or other nuclear-capable weapons during a parade, which would highlight how the country has continued to expand its military capabilities amid stalled nuclear talks.
But while he may put on a huge display of his military hardware, analysts say Kim will likely avoid direct or harsh criticism toward Washington during his speech at the event and instead focus on a domestic message of unity in face of economic hardship.
Many analysts believe North Korea will avoid serious negotiations or provocations before the U.S. presidential election in November as a change in U.S. government could force the country to recalibrate its