North Korea appears to have held a low-key military parade, a day ahead of the opening of the Winter Olympics in the South, South Korean media say.
The North often boasts of its parades but reports of this one appeared to surface after it had taken place.
This event is usually held in April and moving it had been seen as a setback to the warming of ties over the Olympics.
But the South announced on Thursday its president would meet the North’s Olympics delegation on Saturday.
Moon Jae-in will have lunch with the 22-strong team, which will include the North’s ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, and Kim Yo-jong, the influential sister of leader Kim Jong-un.
The timing of the parade had drawn criticism from the US as it is the first time in 40 years the annual event has been held in February.
Early on Thursday state television began showing patriotic films in what appeared to be a prelude to a live broadcast of the parade.
But reports later surfaced that it had already occurred.
“It seems that North Korea opened the parade at 10:30 (Seoul time),” anonymous government sources told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
In 2017, North Korea aired a live broadcast of its military parade on state television. Foreign journalists had been invited to cover the event.South Korean government officials said last month that some 13,000 troops and 200 pieces of equipment had been spotted near an airport in Pyongyang in what appeared to be a rehearsal for the parade.
Experts said Pyongyang was expected to showcase its long-range missiles.This year’s celebration marks the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Korean People’s Army, which was established on 8 February 1948.
The military parade came just one day before the start of the Winter Olympic Games, which will run from 9 to 25 February in the alpine town of Pyeongchang in South Korea.
The Games will see both Koreas march under one flag at the opening ceremony.
North Korea’s top Olympics delegation will travel by plane on Friday to the Games.
But on Thursday North Korea said it has no intention of meeting US officials during the event, according to its official KCNA news agency.South Korea also asked the UN for an exemption to allow Choe Hwi, a UN sanctioned North Korean official, to attend the opening ceremony together with the rest of Pyongyang’s delegation.
If the UN does not object to the exemption by 15:00 ET (20:00 GMT), the request will be granted.
US Vice-President Mike Pence will also be attending the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang on Friday, saying he wanted to “make sure North Korea doesn’t use the powerful symbolism in the backdrop of the [Games] to paper over the truth about their regime”.The main organiser of the Pyeongchang Olympics has said that the parade will not affect the “dynamics” of the Olympic Games.
Lee Hee-beom added that all 193 UN member states, including North Korea, have supported the UN Olympic Truce Resolution for the Winter Games.
Under the truce, which begins seven days before the opening of the Winter Games and runs until the seventh day after the closing of the Winter Paralympics, all UN member states are urged to stop all hostilities.