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North Korea: Kim Jong Un took his daughter to launch a missile and nobody really knows why

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Seoul, South Korea
CNN

Father and daughter walking hand in hand near an awesome weapon of mass destruction.

That was the scene North Korea showed the world on Saturday when state media released the first images of Kim Jong Un with a child believed to be his daughter, Ju Ae, inspecting what experts say it is an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

North Korea said the missile was launched on Friday from the Pyongyang International Airfield. it was a Hwasong-17, a huge rocket that could theoretically deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental United States.

But even after Kim warned that his nuclear forces are poised to engage in “real war” with Washington and its allies South Korea and Japan, it was the girl, not the missile, who captured the world’s attention.

What did your presence at the launch mean? Could she be a possible successor to Kim? What does a girl of approximately 9 years old have to do with nuclear weapons?

Leif-Eric Easley, an associate professor of international studies at Ewha Women’s University in Seoul, said the girl’s presence must be viewed through a domestic lens.

“Outside North Korea, it might seem crazy to pose for the cameras holding a child’s hand in front of a long-range missile designed to deliver a nuclear weapon to a faraway city,” Easley said.

“But inside North Korea, a supposedly 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 domestic bias in the images of Kim’s daughter.

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

The images also featured the girl as a key member of the Kim lineage, Yang said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his daughter watch the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile in this undated photo released on November 19, 2022 by North Korean state media.

North Korea has been ruled as a hereditary dictatorship since its founding in 1948 by Kim Il Sung. His son, Kim Jong Il, took power after his father’s death in 1994. And Kim Jong Un took power 17 years later, when Kim Jong Il died.

But any short-term change in North Korea’s leadership is highly unlikely.

Kim Jong Un is only 38 years old. And even if some unexpected trouble were to take his life, Ju Ae is likely at least a decade or more away from being able to replace his father at the top of the North Korean state.

“I’m really not sure about the succession implications of your daughter’s filing,” said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s nuclear policy program.

“On the one hand, no North Korean leader can take lightly the public disclosure of (a) girl, but she is a minor and her role in the test was not particularly criticized by state media,” it said.

Panda pointed out that the video released by North Korea of ​​the ICBM launch on Friday may prove far more valuable to Western intelligence than anything gleaned from the presence of Kim’s daughter.

“The United States has sophisticated sources and methods that will give it great insight into North Korea’s missiles, but the video may be helpful in building a more complete model of missile performance,” he said.

“In the past, analysts have used video to derive the missile’s acceleration at launch, which can help us identify its overall performance.”

North Korea's last ICBM launch on Friday, November 18, 2022.

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

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

While Friday’s test showed Pyongyang can launch a large ICBM and keep it airborne 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, projectiles that shoot into space. able to survive the ferocious re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere before plunging into its target.

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

“The fact that (Friday’s test) did not explode indicates that they have made progress in resolving the technical problems that plagued previous tests,” said Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project for the Federation of American Scientists.

What comes after North Korea is anyone’s guess.

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

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

“The possibility of North Korea’s seventh nuclear test taking place in November seems a bit low right now,” he said.

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

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