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Asia

North Korea's party anniversary amid military provocations

Pyongyang is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea with a huge military parade. It comes at a time when the isolated communist regime continues to engage in military provocations.

Everything was doubtful last year: For more than a month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un hadn't been seen in public, and that too at a time when the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) was approaching. But Kim eventually re-appeared a little later, with the government saying he had undergone a foot operation.

The question many observers are asking themselves this year is the following: If North Korea uses the anniversary as a show of force, should it be deemed a military provocation, considering the communist nation's recent belligerent actions?

In this image taken from video North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, smiles as he waves to spectators and participants of a military parade celebrating the 65th anniversary of the country's founding, Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, in Pyongyang, North Korea (AP Photo/KRT via AP Video)

Kim has surprised the world with military actions on many occasions

In mid-September, North Korea's aerospace agency indicated that it wanted to send another satellite into space in October, a move that sparked speculations about Pyongyang's intentions. South Korea and its allies fear that Pyongyang is planning to test a long-range missile or conduct its fourth nuclear test.

Hints, warnings, speculation

A spokesman for the South Korean defense ministry made it clear that such provocations were a "clear violation of UN resolutions prohibiting any activities for using ballistic missile technology." So far the "special activities" that have been observed suggest that a launch is imminent, said the spokesman.

The threat of international sanctions, however, did not deter the regime in Pyongyang, as last week Hyon Hak-bong, Pyongyang's ambassador to Britain, said his country would not stop the launch. "We will certainly continue with our plans. We are capable of firing (the missile) anywhere and anytime."

Hard to see through

Traditionally, the North Korean leadership attaches great importance to controlling the flow of information. "North Korea is a totalitarian state," writes Rüdiger Frank, an East Asia researcher at the University of Vienna, in one of his books.

"It sounds paradoxical, and yet it is quite logical: An important element is that North Korea's political system works on the fact that we don't have reliable knowledge about it, and that we have to rely on rumors and speculations," said Frank.

The WPK - whose 70th anniversary will be celebrated on 10 October - is the most important organ of the state. It is the WPK that pervades all institutions - from the military to civilian ministries - and it also preserves state ideology.

In terms of its organization, explains Frank, the WPK largely follows the generally accepted structure of political parties in socialist countries. At the base are the smallest organizational units, which are then combined to go higher. The supreme body is the Congress, which, in theory, meets every five years. However, the last Party Congress was held in 1980.

The ruling party also holds a special delegates' conference, which has so far taken place four times, and is a method for selecting party delegates, said Frank. Kim Jong Un was chosen in late 2011 in a similar conference, succeeding his ailing father and former head of state, Kim Jong Il.

A South Korean man watches a TV news program showing an image published in North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper of North Korea's ballistic missile believed to have been launched from underwater, at Seoul Railway station in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, May 9, 2015 (AP Photo/Ahn Young-oon)

North Korea might formally announce a satellite launch on October 10

Is Kim flexing his muscles?

In December 2012, Pyongyang fired a long-range missile - only five days before the first anniversary of the death of Kim Jong Il. A few months later, in February 2013, North Korea conducted its third and latest nuclear test.

The young North Korean leader has surprised the world with military actions on many occasions. Therefore, it shouldn't come as a surprise if North Korea formally announces a satellite launch on the ruling party's anniversary on October 10.