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Will new missile be on display at North Korea annual parade?

Speculation is rampant that Pyongyang will use the Oct. 10 event to unveil an "October surprise" in the form of a powerful new weapon system.

Updated: October 9, 2020 - 12:36pm

As North Korea prepares to stage a major military parade this weekend, speculation is rampant that Pyongyang will use the occasion to unveil an "October surprise" in the form of a powerful new weapon system.

The parade on Saturday will mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the dominant Workers' Party of Korea. The anniversary is an important event in the North Korean calendar, and each year features a parade to showcase the country's military prowess. 

Now, Korea-watchers are studying various portents related to the upcoming Oct. 10 parade, and are couching predictions based on an ominous warning late last year from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un.

"The world will witness a new strategic weapon to be possessed by the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] in the near future," Kim said at a Workers' Party meeting in December. 

The yet-unrevealed weapon could be set to make its debut on Saturday, experts said.

"It might be some sort of improved solid-fuel capability," former CIA analyst Jung Pak told a German newspaper. Solid-fueled missiles are easier to move and faster to launch than are their liquid-fueled counterparts, and would represent a significant advance for Pyongyang.

A new strategic weapon also could be a submarine-launched ballistic missile, Pak and others speculated. 

Still others dismissed the notion of a new missile launched via submarine, and instead suggested that Kim might unveil a land-based weapon. 

"If he offers up an 'October surprise' this year, it probably won't be the North Korean version of the fictional Soviet ballistic-missile submarine Red October," wrote the Atlantic Council's Markus Garlauskas and Bruce Perry. "Instead, it may well come in the form of new missiles displayed on the streets of Pyongyang during the Party's 75th anniversary parade."

Bolstering that view is a report that a vehicle capable of carrying an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) was spotted last month at a parade rehearsal site outside Pyongyang.

Speculation additionally was fueled Oct. 8, when the party reportedly said that "victory and invincibility" are on the national agenda, as defense enters a new "high level of development."

American intelligence officials note that the Korean People's Army mostly has older weapon systems from the former Soviet Union, Russia, and China. The government of North Korea manufactures new weapons based on those older systems, and has "a robust domestic ballistic missile program based largely on missiles acquired from the former Soviet Union," according to the CIA

Even without a new weapon to unveil, the upcoming pageant will offer Kim a way to display military might during economic hard times. 

Over the summer, soldiers were ordered to train for the event "day and night without rest," a military source told Daily NK, a Seoul-based publication. 

The Workers' Party official newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, this week portrayed a festive occasion being marked with floral deliveries from supporters such as political leaders of Zimbabwe, Congo, and Palestine. 

"With great political ardor the capital city of Pyongyang is all-out to make full preparations for splendidly celebrating the October holiday, the 75th founding anniversary of the Workers' Party of Korea," the outlet announced on Wednesday, noting that local citizens have made efforts to "smarten up" their streets and homes.

Wrote the outlet: "Active efforts are also made to enable them to enjoy the holiday with joy."