Seoul, South Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the launch of “a new type” of intercontinental ballistic missile on Friday, alongside his young daughter, whose existence had not been previously confirmed.
Stunning photos released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) appear to show Kim holding hands with the girl, as the intercontinental ballistic missile sits on its mobile launch pad nearby.
KCNA claimed the “new” missile the two were looking at was a Hwasong-17, saying it was launched from Pyongyang International Airfield, flying a distance of 999.2 kilometers (621 miles).
Japan warned after launch Friday that the new missile appeared to have the potential range to reach the continental United States.
Kim said the test was intended to “clearly demonstrate” his country’s ability to respond to what he called “hysterical aggression war games by enemies seeking to destroy peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.” , according to the KCNA report.
“Kim Jong Un solemnly declared that if the enemies continue to pose threats to the DPRK, frequently introducing means of nuclear attack, our Party and government will resolutely react to nuclear weapons with nuclear weapons and all-out confrontation with all-out confrontation,” KCNA said. .
Friday’s launch, which landed about 210 kilometers (130 miles) west of the Japanese island of Oshima Oshima, according to Japanese officials, was not the first time North Korea had fired an intercontinental ballistic missile that experts and officials say , theoretically could reach the United States.
Friday’s missile was shorter in altitude and range compared to Pyongyang’s missile test on March 24, which recorded the highest altitude and longest duration of any North Korean missile ever tested, according to a Central News Agency report. of Korea (KCNA) at that time. That missile reached an altitude of 6,248.5 kilometers (3,905 miles) and flew a distance of 1,090 kilometers (681 miles), KCNA reported.
And in 2017, then-US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that a missile launched by North Korea that year demonstrated the ability to hit “everything in the world.”
Despite the missile’s theoretical range, Pyongyang’s ability to put a nuclear warhead on top and deliver it to the target remains unproven.
Ballistic missiles are fired into space before falling back to Earth. Experts have yet to see conclusive evidence that North Korea can obtain a warhead for successful fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.
Kim’s threats to the United States and South Korea were nothing new either.
After a missile test in October, the North Korean leader warned his adversaries that his nuclear forces are fully prepared for “real war.”
“Our nuclear combat forces… have once again demonstrated their full readiness for real war to bring enemies under their control,” Kim said in a KCNA report.
Very little is known about the private life of Kim Jong Un or his family.
The news report on Saturday did not name Kim’s daughter, who was appearing in state media for the first time. But in 2013, former basketball star Dennis Rodman told Britain’s Guardian newspaper that Kim had a “baby” named “Ju Ae.”
Rodman said he spent time with the family, describing Kim as a “good father” and spoke with Kim’s wife, Ri Sol Ju.
“I held her baby Ju Ae and also talked to Ms. Ri,” he told the newspaper.
Speculation arose in 2012 that Ri might be pregnant after a photo published by state media showed her wearing a long coat that could have concealed a bulge. But the North Korean authorities were silent on the matter.
State media did not announce Kim and Ri’s marriage until July 2012, some three years after South Korean intelligence believed the wedding took place.
But that changed in 2018, when North Korean state media bestowed on her the new title of “respected First Lady,” a step up from the previously used “comrade” and a sign, analysts say, that she was gaining her own personality. . worship.
Kim and Ri have three children together, according to South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS).
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.