Parade Practice in Full Swing in Pyongyang

Recent commercial satellite imagery of Pyongyang, taken at 2:06 PM (KST) on Sunday afternoon, revealed more than 40 vehicles on the roads of the Mirim Parade Training Ground leading to the replica of Kim Il Sung Square.

North Korea does not publicly confirm its military parades in advance, but the preparations can usually be seen via satellite imagery two to six months prior. The recent training strongly suggests a large military parade is planned for the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea on October 10.

In the center road of the mock parade route around the replica of Kim Il Sung Square, a line of large vehicles appears to be exiting the square. Among them is a group of nine longer vehicles, three abreast, that are likely multiple-rocket launcher vehicles.

Just ahead of those are 10 smaller military vehicles, also three abreast and one standalone, and farther ahead is a group of eight or more (the trees block some from view) slightly smaller military vehicles or trucks.

On the southern east-west road, which passes immediately in front of the mock viewing stand, there is a line of 14 smaller objects, possibly motorcycles or small troop formations.

Based on the size and scope of past parades, the vehicles observed likely represent only a fraction of what will be on display during the celebration. While there are garages at the vehicle storage complex large enough to house long-range missile transporter-erector-launchers (TELs), they were not spotted in the imagery nor are there any indications that they are present at the site.

Figure 1. Various vehicles grouped around replica of Kim Il Sung Square.

Image © 2020 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-nc-sa 4.0. For media licensing options, please contact [email protected].

At the west end of the training ground, 14 parade vehicles are visible in a parking area just north of the April 25 Hotel complex.

Figure 2. Parade vehicles present in parking area near April 25 Hotel.

Image © 2020 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-nc-sa 4.0. For media licensing options, please contact [email protected].

In the vehicle storage compound, no large vehicles are visible but the dark color of the concrete is a testament to a lot of unseen activity.

The temporary structures at the south gate are still in place, although what appeared to be two structures west of the gate now seems to be a single long structure the length of the adjacent garage. Their purpose is still unclear. Additionally, three vehicles appear to be parked just inside the gate.

To the north of the vehicle storage compound, exterior construction work appears to be largely finished on the new large building complex. Its purpose is unclear but it bears a passing resemblance to the layout of the April 25 Hotel on the other corner of the training grounds and could be for troop accommodation ahead of parades. Troops typically spend at least a month on site practicing ahead of each event.

Sixteen tents have been set up in the western-most courtyard.

Figure 3. Close-up of vehicle storage compound.

Image © 2020 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-nc-sa 4.0. For media licensing options, please contact [email protected].

In downtown Pyongyang, imagery from September 17 indicates work on the Okryu Bridge across the Taedong River is complete.

The bridge is used by parade vehicles en route from Mirim to Kim Il Sung Square and has been undergoing upgrades over the past few months. The bridge now has a new layer of asphalt applied to all lines of traffic and new traffic lane markings have been painted onto them. A few vehicles can be seen driving across the bridge in both directions.

Figure 4. Okryu Bridge upgrades complete.

Image Pleiades © CNES 2020, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact [email protected].

At Kim Il Sung Square, people can be seen practicing for the parade. On parade day, thousands will pack the square to wave and hold banners as military vehicles pass the newly refurbished viewing stand.

Figure 5. People gathered at Kim Il Sung Square practicing for the parade.

Image Pleiades © CNES 2020, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact [email protected].

While people are visible in the Airbus afternoon image, the scene isn’t as dramatic as that captured on the same day by Maxar. In that image, thousands are seen practicing and spelling out huge phrases with choreographed placards such as: “Heroic Youth,” and “100 Battles, 100 Victories.”

Figure 6. Another shot of Kim Il Sung Square taken on September 17 shows thousands practicing in formations.

Image Courtesy of Maxar Technologies, 2020.
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