North Korea staged a military parade in Pyongyang on Thursday to mark the 70th anniversary of its armed forces, putting its intercontinental ballistic missiles on show just a day before the Winter Olympics open in the South.
The nuclear-armed North is on an Olympics-linked charm offensive – sending a troupe of performers, hundreds of female cheerleaders, and the sister of leader Kim Jong-un to South Korea.
But regiments of soldiers goose-stepped in formation through Kim Il-sung Square on Thursday, followed by trucks, artillery, tanks and finally the giant missiles – as well as a band forming the word "Victory" in the Korean script.
Fireworks went off as leader Kim Jong-un took his place on the rostrum to watch the display, along with his wife Ri Sol-ju and the ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam – who will head Pyongyang's delegation to the Olympics on Friday.
"We ... have become capable of showcasing our stature as a world-class military power to the world," said Kim, wearing a long black coat and black fedora. The military should remain on high alert to ensure that invaders could not violate the North's sovereignty "even by 0.001mm", he said.
"Long live!" cried the assembled troops, their breath condensing in the subzero temperatures and some of them in tears at the sight of the leader.
The North's high-level delegation for the Olympics is being led by its ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam, the highest-level official ever to visit the South, and also includes Kim Jong-un's sister Kim Yo-jong – an increasingly powerful and influential figure.
The delegation will have lunch with the South's President Moon Jae-in on Saturday, Seoul's presidential Blue House said, after arriving by plane on Friday. US Vice President Mike Pence is also scheduled to attend the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang on Friday. (AFP)