BEIJING - North Korea is expected to stage a military parade in Pyongyang on Thursday to mark the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Korean People's Army, one day before the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics gets underway in South Korea.
The international community is closely watching whether North Korea will try to demonstrate its nuclear capacity at the parade in a show of force to the United States, following the conciliatory gesture it made toward Seoul at the start of the year.
North Korea has not announced it will carry out a military parade, but the South Korean government has said rehearsals are being held at an airfield in Pyongyang, with the mobilization of more than 10,000 soldiers.
Michael Spavor, a Canadian who has business ties with North Korea and is visiting Pyongyang, posted a photo on Twitter Thursday, saying it "seems like a big traffic jam, even gridlock along the Taedong river heading towards Kim Il Sung Square."
"It looks like the parade will begin after lunch," he added.
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 intercontinental ballistic missiles 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 that his country had "finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force."
But North Korea, which is under severe international sanctions, is expected to refrain from displaying such menacing weapons in consideration of the nascent thaw in relations with South Korea.
In a surprise move, Pyongyang has pledged to send athletes as well as coaches and officials, including the country's ceremonial leader Kim Yong Nam and the leader's younger sister Kim Yo Jong, to the Pyeongchang Olympics scheduled to start 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 has not allowed foreign media to visit North Korea to cover the envisioned military parade, has so far shown no signs of abandoning its nuclear and missile programs.
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.