North Korea preparing toned-down military parade

Analysts say that so far there is no indication the parade will match the April 2017 “Day of the Sun” parade. (File/AFP)
Updated 01 September 2018
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North Korea preparing toned-down military parade

  • Parades have long been a way for North Korea to show off its military might
  • September’s show comes amid sensitive negotiations over the future of the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile arsenal

SEOUL: Satellite imagery shows North Korea is poised to stage another military parade amid new worries that diplomatic efforts on denuclearization are stalling, though analysts say it is unclear whether it will showcase any of the country’s largest ballistic missiles.
Pyongyang is preparing to host a number of major events on Sept. 9 for the 70th anniversary of the country’s founding, including a military parade, possible visits by foreign delegations, and — for the first time in five years — a massive choreographed performance known as the “Mass Games.”
Parades have long been a way for North Korea to show off its military might, and September’s show comes amid sensitive negotiations over the future of the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile arsenal.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met US President Donald Trump in June and agreed to “work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” but negotiations since then appear to have stalled with both sides increasingly criticizing the other for a lack of progress.
Based on commercial satellite imagery gathered by Planet Labs Inc., analysts say September’s military parade is likely to be very similar to one staged on Feb. 8, but so far there is no sign of the controversial intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that are believed to be capable of targeting the United States.
“At the moment, this parade look pretty similar if not smaller than the one in February,” said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at California’s Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
Among the weapons the team at Middlebury spotted in Aug. 22 images of North Korea’s Mirim Parade Training Ground are tanks, self-propelled artillery, infantry carriers, anti-aircraft missiles, and rocket launchers.
Other possible weapons arrayed on the parade ground include coastal defense cruise missiles, as well as at least six solid-fuel, short-range ballistic missiles possibly of a type first seen in February.
Analysts said that short-range ballistic missile is based on the Russian Iskander missile but also shares many features of South Korea’s Hyunmoo-2 missile.
“The first 99 vehicles are identical,” Lewis said. “After that we only see another 20 or so short-range missiles. There were more on parade in February, including ICBMs.”
Another analysis of the Planet Labs images, conducted by Joseph Bermudez at the Stimson Center’s 38 North website, also found no signs of ICBMs, but noted that an expanded number of heavy equipment storage shelters indicate September’s parade “will likely be considerably larger than the military parade earlier this year.”
If ICBMs or other large missiles are present, “they would likely remain hidden under the shelters in the heavy equipment storage area until the day of the parade,” Bermudez wrote.
Lewis acknowledged that there could be more weapons hidden in the sheds, but said at this point it is “just speculation.”
Analysts say that so far there is no indication the parade will match the April 2017 “Day of the Sun” parade, in which Kim rolled out multiple new missile systems, helping to exacerbate rising tensions with the United States and South Korea.
“It probably wont be anything close to what we saw in 2017,” said Dave Schmerler, a research associate at the Middlebury Institute.


Hong Kong bans pro-independence party

In this file photo taken on August 5, 2016, Andy Chan (R), leader of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), gives a press conference at the start of a rally near the government's headquarters in Hong Kong. (AFP)
Updated 24 September 2018
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Hong Kong bans pro-independence party

  • The ban is likely to raise further questions about Beijing’s growing influence in the former British colony, which was promised semi-autonomy as part of the 1997 handover

HONG KONG: Authorities in Hong Kong on Monday took an unprecedented step against separatist voices by banning a political party that advocates independence for the southern Chinese territory on national security grounds.
John Lee, the territory’s secretary for security, announced that the Hong Kong National Party will be prohibited from operation from Monday.
Lee’s announcement did not provide further details. But Hong Kong’s security bureau had previously said in a letter to the National Party’s leader, 27-year-old Andy Chan, that the party should be dissolved “in the interests of national security or public safety, public order or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” Chan had no immediate comment.
That letter had cited a national security law that has not been invoked since 1997. The ban is likely to raise further questions about Beijing’s growing influence in the former British colony, which was promised semi-autonomy as part of the 1997 handover. Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials have warned separatist activity would not be tolerated.
Chan, the National Party leader, had previously told The Associated Press that police approached him with documents detailing his speeches and activities since the party’s formation in 2016.
The party was founded in response to frustration about Beijing’s treatment of Hong Kong. Despite a promise of autonomy, activists complain mainland influence over its democratic elections is increasing.
Chan and other pro-independence candidates were disqualified from 2016 elections to the Hong Kong legislature after they refused to sign a pledge saying Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China. The Hong Kong National Party has never held any seats on the council.