Seoul: North Korea quietly marked the 71st anniversary of its army’s founding, without a military parade or any other provocative show of force, on Friday as leader Kim Jong Un prepares to hold a second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump late this month.
The “Army-Building Day,” which commemorates the 1948 establishment of the Korean People’s Army, is one of North Korea’s biggest national holidays. Last year, the regime held a massive military parade showing off weapons and military hardware to mark the 70th anniversary.
Officials in Seoul have said that the communist nation has shown no signs of preparing such a parade or any other unusual movements this year, noting that the country typically holds such large-scale events on every fifth or 10th anniversary.
This year’s anniversary came just weeks before the North’s Kim holds his second meeting with Trump, in Vietnam on Feb. 27-28, to flesh out the denuclearization deal they reached at their historic first summit in Singapore in June.
Since Wednesday, U.S. special envoy on North Korea Stephen Biegun has been in Pyongyang for pre-summit negotiations with his counterpart Kim Hyok Chol. The two sides were expected to try to map out the contours of a deal to be finalized at the upcoming summit.
North Korean state media marked Friday’s anniversary with articles lauding founding leader Kim Il Sung.
The country’s main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, carried stories marking the anniversary on its first three pages, with an editorial saying that the army’s establishment guaranteed the country’s independent development.
“President Kim Il Sung founded the KPA, Juche-type revolutionary regular army, in a matter of less than three years by setting forth the founding of a strong regular army as an indispensable requirement for the building of a sovereign and independent state,” the paper said in an editorial carried by the Korean Central News Agency.
“The KPA won a brilliant victory in the Fatherland Liberation War and has grown to be the invincible ranks that can crush any formidable enemy at a single blow, smashing the adventurous provocations of the enemies at every step. The credit for it is the wise leadership of the President,” it said.
The paper also praised the current leader Kim as “the peerlessly illustrious commander,” saying the KPA under his leadership is “further demonstrating its might as an invincible revolutionary army and performing world-startling heroic exploits in the building of a powerful socialist country.”
KCNA reported that a stream of people has been visiting Pyongyang’s Korean Revolution Museum dedicated to the founding leader Kim, grandfather of the current leader, and various events, such as art performances and movie screenings, were held to mark the anniversary.
North Korea switched the army anniversary back to Feb. 8 last year after having observed it on April 25 since 1978. April 25 is the date when the founding leader created anti-Japanese guerrilla forces in 1932 during Japan’s colonial rule of Korea.