Recent commercial satellite imagery has shown a massive troop movement at a parade ground in North Korea as Pyongyang is suspected to be gearing up for a major military show in early February.
In a surprise move, the North had earlier declared that 8 February would be considered as the army's new founding anniversary changing it from the original date, 25 April. The latest date is just a day before the start of Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in rival South Korea.
The Kim Jong-un regime is known to engage in showcasing its military might during the anniversary and is likely to display a parade in February as well. According to more than one US media outlet, including the Voice of America, the commercial satellite Planet picked up the troop movements on 11 January.
These satellite images show hundreds of army vehicles parked on one side of a square near an airport in Pyongyang while soldiers in formation were also spotted in the same area. "The parade appears to involve 28 formations of infantry or other military personnel, a traditional military band, and possibly additional personnel," wrote Scott LaFoy in his analysis for NK News.
The Mirim Parade Training Ground, near the Mirim airport, is frequently used ahead of major military parades by North Korea. Pyongyang usually uses such parades to trumpet to the world about its growing weapons arsenal.
Prior to the satellite imagery report, a South Korean government official had told the Yonhap news agency that nearly 13,000 troops and about 200 pieces of equipment were detected at the same airport. It was believed to be a rehearsal for the upcoming military parade.
The North's abrupt decision to commemorate the founding anniversary of Korean People's Army (KPA) comes just as when the country's rogue leadership has shown signs of rapprochement of ties with neighbouring South Korea after months-long tensions in the Korean peninsula region.