North Korea staged a military parade Thursday morning in Pyongyang to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Army, one day before the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics get under way, a South Korean government source said.
Amid fears it could hamper a thaw with Seoul, the parade was not shown live on television, apparently to give the impression it was only for domestic propaganda purposes, not an act of provocation against its neighbor.
International attention was focused on whether North Korea would demonstrate its nuclear capacity at the parade in a show of force to Washington, following the conciliatory gesture it made toward Seoul at the start of the year. But it remains unclear whether any intercontinental ballistic missiles were on show.
South Korea's Yonhap News Agency quoted a government source as saying that around 50,000 people, including about 13,000 soldiers participated in the parade. North Korea has not released footage of the spectacle.
Since the last military parade on April 15, 2017, the 105th anniversary of the birth of North Korea's founding leader, Pyongyang has launched a series of ICBMs that could deliver nuclear weapons to anywhere on the U.S. mainland.
Following the third ICBM test in November, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared his country had "finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force."
In a surprise move, Pyongyang agreed last month to send athletes as well as coaches and officials to the Olympics, and a high-level delegation including the country's ceremonial leader Kim Yong Nam and Kim Jong Un's younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, is set to arrive in the South on Friday.
Some diplomatic experts see North Korea's moves as being aimed at paving the way for an easing of the international sanctions against it by improving ties with South Korea.
Meanwhile, Pyongyang, which did not allow foreign media to visit North Korea to cover Thursday's military parade, has so far shown no signs of abandoning its nuclear and missile programs.
Earlier Thursday, the North's official Korean Central News Agency quoted a senior Foreign Ministry official as saying Pyongyang has no intention of having talks with Washington during the Olympics.
The official made the comment after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence did not rule out the possibility of having contact with North Korean officials as he leads a U.S. delegation to the Olympics.
U.S. President Donald Trump's administration has committed to bolstering pressure on North Korea until the Asian nation takes concrete steps for denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
The anniversary of the founding of the North Korean army was previously marked on April 25, the day in 1932 when Kim Il Sung established the first revolutionary army.
Pyongyang, however, said last month that Feb. 8 will be marked as the date that the Korean People's Army was founded, as that is the day in 1948 that country founder Kim began a transformation that culminated in the establishment of the KPA.
North Korea did not announce it would carry out a military parade, but the South Korean government said rehearsals were being held at an airfield in Pyongyang, with the mobilization of more than 10,000 troops.