Depardieu coy as North Korea celebrates 70 years with Mass Games
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Depardieu coy as North Korea celebrates 70 years with Mass Games

Paris: Gérard Depardieu, the French actor, has been spotted in the North Korean capital Pyongyang on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the country's birth.

French star Gerard Depardieu pictured in 2016.

French star Gerard Depardieu pictured in 2016.Credit:AP

Journalists noticed the film star in the Yanggakdo hotel for tourists in the biggest city of the communist state, which will today mark its "Day of the Foundation of the Republic".

A major military parade, huge rallies and the return of "mass games" were all planned for today (Sunday). It is not known whether Depardieu was due to take part in the festivities or is a guest.

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Visibly irked at being identified, the star of Green Card, Asterix and Cyrano de Bergerac refused to give any interviews, and was filmed on Friday saying: "I don't want journalists."

Workers with paint brushes and brooms put the final touches on Pyongyang's iconic Kim Il Sung Square on Saturday as North Korea prepared for what promises to be its biggest celebration in years.

The spectacle, months in the making, will centre on a military parade and mass games predicted to put advanced missiles and leader Kim Jong-un's hopes for a stronger economy front and centre.

A portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is displayed on a large screen during a evening gala performance on the eve of the 70th anniversary of North Korea's founding day on Saturday.

A portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is displayed on a large screen during a evening gala performance on the eve of the 70th anniversary of North Korea's founding day on Saturday.Credit:AP

Although North Korea stages military parades almost every year, and held one just before the Olympics began in South Korea in February this year, Sunday's parade comes at a particularly sensitive time.

Kim's effort to ease tensions with US President Donald Trump have stalled since their June summit in Singapore. Both sides are now insisting on a different starting point. Washington wants Kim to commit to denuclearisation first, but Pyongyang wants its security guaranteed and a peace agreement formally ending the Korean War.

With tensions once again on the rise, a parade featuring the very missiles that so unnerved Trump last year, and led to a dangerous volley of insults from both leaders, could be seen as a deliberate provocation.

North Korean military choir members sing during an evening gala on Saturday.

North Korean military choir members sing during an evening gala on Saturday.Credit:AP

The North displayed its latest missiles in the February parade, however, and Washington hardly batted an eye. So it's possible Kim might choose to display them but give the missiles a lower profile if he makes his usual address just before the parade begins.

Either way, soon after the Sunday celebrations end, Kim will once again meet in Pyongyang with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss ways to break the impasse over his nuclear weapons.

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BFM TV also identified fellow Frenchman Yann Moix, a novelist and outspoken radio and TV editorialist.

Oliver Hotham, managing editor of NK News who was present at the hotel, said that Depardieu had "refused to allow photos and one of his dudes said 'you'll have a bad time' if I persisted in trying to get a quote from him".

However, he did grant a selfie to a Turkish "friendship" delegation at the airport.

Scores of pro-North Korea "friendship organisations" and government delegations have been arriving in the North Korean capital during the past few days.

Depardieu has been in the news in recently in his native France after prosecutors launched a preliminary probe into allegations that he raped a young French actress and singer in his Paris mansion last month.

The actor "absolutely denies any -attack, any rape", said his lawyer, Hervé Témime.

Depardieu, who has appeared in about170 films, is a friend of Russian president Vladimir Putin and holds dual French-Russian nationality.

Telegraph, London; AAP