North Korea: Kim Jong Un took his daughter to a missile launch and no one knows why

Seoul, South Korea

A father and daughter walk hand in hand near a weapon of mass destruction.

that was The scene that North Korea showed the world on Saturday when state media released the first pictures of Kim Jong Un with a child they believed was His daughter, Ju Ai, checks out what Experts say it is an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

North Korea said the missile was launched on Friday from Pyongyang International Airport It was the Hwasong-17, a massive missile that could theoretically carry a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.

But even after Kim warned his nuclear forces were ready for “actual war” with Washington and its allies South Korea and Japan, it was the girl, not the missile, that captured the world’s attention.

What does its existence mean at launch? Could she be a potential successor to Kim? What does a girl of about 9 years old have to do with nuclear weapons?

Leif Eric Eisley, assistant professor of international studies at Ewha Women’s University in Seoul, said the girl’s presence should be seen through a domestic lens.

“Outside North Korea, it might seem outrageous to pose for cameras alongside a child in front of a long-range missile designed to deliver a nuclear weapon to a distant city,” Easley said.

“But within North Korea, the purported successful launch of the world’s largest road-mobile ICBM is cause for national celebration.”

Yang Moo-jin, president of the University of North Korean Studies in the South, also noted the local slant in photos of Kim’s daughter.

“By showing him some quality time with his daughter, it seemed that he (Kim) wanted to show his family as a good and stable family, and to show himself as a leader for the common people,” Yang told Canadian broadcaster Global News.

Yang said the photos showed the girl as a key member of the Kim dynasty.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his daughter promise to launch an ICBM in this undated photo released by North Korean state media on November 19, 2022.

North Korea has been ruled as a hereditary dictatorship since its founding in 1948 by Kim Il-sung. His son, Kim Jong Il, took over after his father died in 1994. Kim Jong Un assumed power 17 years later when Kim Jong Il died.

But any near-term change in North Korean leadership is highly unlikely.

Kim Jong Un is only 38 years old. And even if an unforeseen problem were to take his life, Ju Ae would likely be at least a decade or more away from being able to replace her father at the apex of the North Korean state.

“I’m really unsure of the implications of offering his daughter to succeed his daughter,” said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“On the other hand, no North Korean leader can take lightly the public disclosure of a child, but she is underage, and her role in probation was not particularly threatened by state media,” he said.

Panda suggested that the video released by North Korea of ​​an intercontinental ballistic missile launch on Friday may prove more valuable to Western intelligence than anything gleaned from the presence of Kim’s daughter.

“The US has sophisticated sources and methods that will give it insight into North Korea’s missiles, but the video could be useful for building a more complete model of the missile’s performance,” he said.

“In the past, analysts have used videos to derive the acceleration of a missile at launch, which can help us determine its overall performance.”

North Korea launched its latest ICBM on Friday, November 18, 2022.

It was only the third time Pyongyang had released a video of a missile launch since 2017, according to Panda.

“The North Koreans used to be considerably more transparent before 2017, when their primary concern was the credibility of their nuclear deterrent,” he said.

While Friday’s test showed Pyongyang could launch a large-scale intercontinental ballistic missile and keep it aloft for more than an hour, North Korea has yet to demonstrate the ability to place a warhead on top of a long-range ballistic missile – a projectile launched into space – that is capable of surviving. of fiery return to Earth’s atmosphere before plunging to its target.

But analysts say the North Koreans are refining their processes with frequent testing. A missile believed to be the Hwasong-17 ICBM that was tested earlier this month failed in the early stages of its flight.

“The fact that (Friday’s test) did not detonate indicates that they have made progress in fixing the technical problems that characterized previous tests,” said Hans Christensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists.

What comes next from North Korea is anyone’s guess.

For most of this year, Western analysts and intelligence sources have predicted that North Korea will test a nuclear weapon, with satellite imagery showing activity at the nuclear test site. Such a test would be Pyongyang’s first in five years.

But Yang, the president of the University of North Korean Studies, told Global News that Friday’s test may have lessened the urgency of a nuclear test, at least for now.

He said: “The possibility of North Korea’s seventh nuclear test in November (November) seems a bit weak now.”

He said another ICBM test could be Pyongyang’s response if the United States continues to build up its military presence in the region and expand exercises with South Korea and Japan.

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