Seoul, South Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the launch of a “new type” of intercontinental ballistic missiles Friday, alongside his young daughter, whose presence was not previously confirmed.
A striking photo released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) appears to show Kim holding hands with the girl, as an ICBM sits on its mobile launch platform nearby.
KCNA claimed the “new” missile seen by the pair was a Hwasong-17, and said it was launched from Pyongyang International Airport, flying a distance of 999.2 kilometers (621 miles).
Japan warned after Friday’s launch that the new missile appeared to have the potential range to reach the US mainland.
Kim said the test was meant to “clearly demonstrate” his country’s ability to respond to what he called “hysterical aggression war exercises by enemies who seek to destroy peace and stability on the Korean peninsula,” according to a KCNA report.
“Kim Jong Un solemnly declared that if the enemies continue to threaten the DPRK, often introducing nuclear attacks means, our Party and government will react nuclear with nuclear weapons and total confrontation and all 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 the first time North Korea had fired an ICBM that experts and officials said could theoretically reach the US.
Friday’s missile was shorter in height and range compared to Pyongyang’s missile test on March 24, which marked the highest height and longest duration of a missile North Korea had ever tested, according to reports from the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) at the time. The 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, US Defense Secretary James Mattis, said the missiles launched by North Korea that year showed the ability to hit “everything in the world.”
Despite the missile’s theoretical range, Pyongyang’s ability to place a nuclear warhead aloft and deliver it to a target remains unproven.
Ballistic missiles are fired into space before plunging back to earth. Experts have yet to see conclusive evidence that North Korea can get a warhead to successfully re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere.
Kim’s threats to the US and South Korea are also nothing new.
After a missile test in October, North Korea’s leader warned his nuclear-powered adversaries were ready for “real war.”
“Our nuclear combat forces … proved again their full readiness for actual war to bring the enemy under their control,” Kim said in a KCNA report.
Very little is known about the personal life of Kim Jong Un or his family.
Saturday’s news report did not name Kim’s daughter, the first to appear in state media. But in 2013, former basketball star Dennis Rodman told the British newspaper Guardian that Kim has a “baby” called “Ju Ae”.
Rodman said he spent time with the family, describing Kim as a “good father” and that he spoke to Kim’s wife, Ri Sol Ju.
“I held her baby Ju Ae and spoke to Ms. Ri as well,” she told the newspaper.
Speculation emerged in 2012 that Ri could be pregnant after photos carried by state media showed her wearing a long coat that could hide her bump. But the North Korean authorities have remained silent on the issue.
State media did not announce Kim and Ri’s wedding until July 2012, about three years after South Korean intelligence believed the wedding had taken place.
But that changed in 2018, when she was given the new title of “respected First Lady” by North Korean state media, a step up from the previously used “same” and a sign, according to analysts, that she has her own personality. cult
Kim and Ri have three children, according to South Korea’s National Intelligence Agency (NIS).
North Korea has ruled as a hereditary dictator since its founding in 1948 by Kim Il Sung. His son, Kim Jong Il, took over after his father’s death in 1994. And Kim Jong Un took power 17 years later when Kim Jong Il died.