By Alex Jensen
SEOUL (AA) - There is a "high possibility" North Korea will mobilize large numbers of troops and most of its weapons in a show of force early next month, according to South Korea.
South Korea's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told a forum in Seoul on Friday that the expected Feb. 8 parade at an airfield in Pyongyang could be "intimidating".
"The public and the international community probably have grave concerns, but the government's efforts to make the PyeongChang Games a 'Peace Olympics' and the North's participation in the Games [could also mitigate such concerns]," Cho was quoted as saying by Yonhap News Agency.
The South is monitoring developments as the Koreas are forming a unified Olympic team for the first time after breakthrough cooperation talks this month.
But the North looks set to mark the 70th founding anniversary of its military on the eve of the PyeongChang Olympics, which is being held in the southern portion of the divided peninsula.
Pyongyang has been demanding that South Korea cancel planned joint military drills with the United States this spring – the allies already agreed to delay the exercises until after the Paralympics in March.
The prospect of provocative military parades and drills will dampen hopes that the Winter Games could bring about a lasting improvement in inter-Korean ties, as Cho admitted "it is a realistic guess that a vicious circle of repeated provocations and sanctions could come back soon".
Many onlookers view the North's recent reconciliatory stance, ie agreeing to hold cooperation talks, with suspicion given that the reclusive state refuses to stop developing nuclear weapons despite global punitive measures.