Pyongyang ready for 70th anniversary party

Pyongyang ready for 70th anniversary party

A woman walks past propaganda posters at the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory in Pyongyang on Saturday. The poster at left reads “Let’s thoroughly implement the decisions of the April meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea.” (AP Photo)
A woman walks past propaganda posters at the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory in Pyongyang on Saturday. The poster at left reads “Let’s thoroughly implement the decisions of the April meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea.” (AP Photo)

PYONGYANG: Foreign dignitaries and officials have begun arriving Pyongyang on the eve of North Korea’s 70th founding anniversary, amid a deadlock in denuclearisation negotiations with the United States.

The anniversary celebrations on Sunday will feature the first military parade since leader Kim Jonhg-un and US President Donald Trump held their historic summit in June in Singapore.

All eyes are on whether Kim will make a public speech, and if so, what kind of message he will send as denuclearisation talks have reached an impasse since Singapore.

On Saturday, Li Zhanshu, the third-highest ranking official in the Communist Party of China, flew into Pyongyang, while Valentina Matvienko, chairwoman of the Russian Federation Council, arrived in the capital on Friday.

At Pyongyang International Airport, Li was greeted by North Korean senior officials including Kim Yo-jong, the leader’s sister and close aide, and Choe Ryong-hae, who is regarded as Kim Jong-un’s right-hand man.

Some foreign affairs experts say North Korea is willing to promote talks with the United States with the backing of the two neighbouring friendly countries.

Meanwhile, officials have put the final touches on preparations for Sunday’s anniversary, with some high school and university students practising for torchlight marches and mass games.

Mass games performed by tens of thousands of people working in precise unison take months if not years of intense preparation and training, and have not been staged since 2013. This year’s extravaganza is being called “Glorious Country”.

To make sure the event is seen around the world, North Korea has invited a large contingent of foreign media to cover it and the other events including the military parade.

The games are also a time-tested source of tourist dollars for North Korea. Ticket sales to tourists from China and Europe are reportedly brisk despite prices that start at 100 euros and go all the way up to 800 euros for VIP seating.

The 300-metre-tall, pyramid-shaped 105-storey Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, which has been long dormant, is being lit up from top to bottom at night to celebrate the anniversary.

At its last military parade in February, Pyongyang displayed what appeared to be intercontinental ballistic missiles like the Hwasong-15 missile, capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to any city on the US mainland, in a thinly veiled threat to Washington. Observers will be watching closely to see what kind of hardware will be showcased on Sunday.

Although Kim promised Trump in June to achieve “complete” denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula in return for security guarantees from Washington, scepticism has been lingering about North Korea’s intention to take concrete steps toward it.

But in his talks with envoys of South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday in Pyongyang, Kim voiced hope that denuclearisation of the peninsula will take place during Trump’s current term in office through January 2021, according to Seoul.

Trump has welcomed Kim’s latest commitment, sparking expectations that negotiations between the United States and North Korea will move forward.

Visiting media representatives in recent days have been invited to tour cutting-edge facilities and historical sites, as Kim has pledged to boost the country’s economy instead of developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Slogans and signs emphasising the nation’s “state nuclear force” have disappeared from major sites in Pyongyang.

Although colourful signs with the words “Celebrating the 70th anniversary of founding” have been put up along main roads, slogans criticising the United States have not appeared in the capital.

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