North Korea is preparing to stage a military parade this weekend along with its first mass games in five years to mark its 70th anniversary.
The parade will be closely watched for clues about North Korea’s weapons arsenal and professed commitment to denuclearisation.
A large display of ballistic missiles would be widely seen as provocative.
The Arirang Mass Games, meanwhile, are an elaborate propaganda spectacle with enormous co-ordinated displays.
Relations between North Korea and the US have been under strain since the landmark June meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore.
The two men signed a vague agreement to work towards denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula – this sounded well-meaning but sceptics were quick to point out it did not include a timeline, details or mechanisms to verify the process.
High level talks and visits have continued and there have been some gestures from the North like sending back the remains of some of the US troops killed during the Korean War in the 1950s.
But the most recent scheduled trip by FUS Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was called off last minute and both sides have blamed each other for the stalling negotiations while insisting they’re committed to the progress.
Donald Trump has also blamed China for pressuring Pyongyang against Washington.
Observers say the military parade could cast doubt on North Korea’s sincerity about denuclearising and pausing its missiles programme.
Previous parades have put tanks, missiles and tens of thousands of military personnel on show. But analysts say it’s not about how many soldiers or how much weaponry will be on display – but what kind.
“The most important part here is whether we will see any intercontinental missiles (ICBMs) at the parade and if so, how many of them,” Fyodor Tertitskiy of NK News told the BBC.
ICBMs, which can reach the US mainland – potentially carrying a nuclear warhead – are of huge concern internationally.
Mr Tertitskiy thinks North Korea has no plans to give up its missiles, “but should they show the missiles at the parade, it would be a good sign to show that they don’t even pretend that they do”.
“That would indicate that the talks with the US are coming to a breakdown.”
What do the games look like?
The Grand Mass Gymnastics and Artistic Performance Arirang – or Arirang Games – last took place in 2013.
This year’s games, which tells a symbolic story of North Korea’s history, are titled The Glorious Country.
Analysis of satellite images from the past two weeks suggest this year’s games, which will continue throughout September, are going to be very big.
Past games have featured gigantic stadiums filled with performers, synchronised gymnasts and co-ordinated dance displays.
The propaganda spectacle is held to give the citizens of the closed country a morale boost, show conformity and communist communal spirit, correspondents say.
With tickets for foreigners costing more than £700 ($930) the country could rake in foreign currency at a time it is still under sanctions from many Western nations.
National carrier Air Koryo has scheduled additional flights from Beijing to bring in more tourists to watch the performances.
The colourful displays are likely to be striking but the UN has in the past said that children are forced to take part, or to help in the build-up.