North Korea holds military parade ahead of Winter Olympics

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held a military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea,on Thursday, just one day before the Opening Ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The parade, usually held in April, was moved to be held ahead of the games and was broadcast on state television Thursday morning. The parade marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army and was reportedly smaller than usual.

Kim addressed the crowd during the parade with his wife, Ri Sol Ju, by his side, stating that the parade shows the world that North Korea “has developed into a world-class military power.”

“As long as imperialism is present on the Earth and US’s hostile policy against North Korea continues, the mission of the Korea People’s Army to be the strong sword that protects the country and people, and peace can never change,” Kim said at the parade.

In this image made from video released by KRT on Feb. 8, 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and his wife Ri Sol Ju arrive at a military parade in Pyongyang, Thursday, Feb. 8 2018. (KRT via AP)

As many as 50,000 people gathered in Kim Il Sung Square to watch the parade, according to South Korean news media.

The event is seen by some as a major setback in the region ahead of the Winter Olympics. North Korea announced last month that it will send 22 athletes to compete in the games after skipping the last two Winter Olympics. They have formed a joint women’s hockey team with South Korea, and will march under a “unity flag” with the South Koreans at the Opening Ceremony in PyeongChang on Friday. Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-Jong will even attend the opening ceremony.

United States vice president Mike Pence arrived in South Korea on Thursday, and is scheduled to attend the opening ceremony in PyeongChang with Fred Warmbier on Friday.  Warmbier’s son, Otto, was detained in North Korea. He died just two days after arriving back in the United States one year later.

It is unclear how this parade will affect — if at all — North Korea’s or any potential peace talks during the Olympics. While Kim said that his delegation will not meet with Pence or anyone from the United States, they are scheduled to meet with South Korean president Moon Jae-in on Saturday.

In this image taken from video footage, North Korean military personnel salute as they lay flowers in front of giant statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il on Mansu Hill in central Pyongyang, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. (AP)

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