N.K. set to mark founder’s birthday with possible military parade

SEOUL-- North Korea is set to celebrate the 105th birthday of late state founder Kim Il-sung on Saturday with a massive military parade likely to be held amid growing tensions over its nuclear and missile program.

The country's biggest national holiday came amid growing speculation that Pyongyang could conduct its sixth nuclear test or launch missiles around key anniversaries in April.

South Korean authorities are closely watching whether the North would hold what could be the largest-ever parade at the square named after the founder in Pyongyang.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have risen amid concerns over the United States' possible pre-emptive strike against North Korea. Washington has sent Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and its navy strike group to water near the region in a show of force.

If North Korea holds a military parade, it is expected to showcase its latest missiles and other new military equipment to flex its military muscle.

North Korea's last parade was held in October 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Worker's Party of Korea. It staged a similar lavish parade in 2012 to mark the centenary of Kim Il-sung's birth. The country unveiled an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) known as the KN-08 for the first time at that time.

The North's leader said in his New Year's message that the country has entered the final stage of preparing to launch an ICBM capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.

The country steadfastly sticks to its dual pursuit of nuclear weapons and economic growth, commonly known as "byongjin policy."

North Korea is known to have invited about 200 foreign journalists to let them cover the country's celebrations of the key national holiday.

On Thursday, it opened a new residential zone lined with skyscrapers, called Ryomyong Street, in a bid to show the world that it remains unscathed by international sanctions.

"Ryomyong Street is an accomplishment that the North wants to promote on the economic front," said an official at Seoul's unification ministry. "It may hope to show something to display its nuclear and missile capabilities."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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