By Josh Smith
SEOUL (Reuters) - Masses of North Korean troops and vehicles have been practicing for a major military parade despite the country's ongoing coronavirus restrictions, satellite imagery released by a U.S. think-tank shows.
Commercial satellite imagery analysed by 38 North, a think-tank that specialises in North Korea, showed formations of troops and vehicles at the Mirim Parade Training Ground, in the suburbs of the capital city of Pyongyang on Monday.
"North Korea has been widely expected to hold a major military parade on October 10 this year to mark the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea," the 38 North report said. "These images provide the first evidence that rehearsals are underway."
The Mirim facility is regularly used by troops practicing the demanding marching style featured in North Korea's military parades, which usually take place in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square in front of dignitaries, often including leader Kim Jong Un.
October 10 is widely expected to be a major holiday for the North, but parade preparations appear to have been delayed compared to previous years, possibly due to anti-pandemic measures or recent severe weather, 38 North said.
In recent months, North Korea appears to have constructed around 100 permanent garages at the Mirim facility, making it nearly impossible to observe what vehicles might be involved, the report said.
"That said, numerous tire tracks in the newly concreted area servicing the garages indicate heavy activity has taken place in and around the garages," 38 North added.
North Korea has used such parades to showcases its growing arsenal of ballistic missiles, but since a round of international diplomacy began in 2018, such missiles have not been featured.
North Korea has said it has no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, but has imposed strict border closures and long quarantines to prevent the possible spread of the disease.
(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Michael Perry)