- First public appearance of Kim Jong Un’s child
- Girl could be groomed for leadership role, analysts say
- The launch was the largest missile ever launched by North Korea
SEOUL, Nov 19 (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un revealed his daughter to the world for the first time on Saturday in striking photos showing the couple holding hands before the launch of the country’s largest ballistic missile equipped with the nuclear weapon the day before.
North Korea tested a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Friday, the official KCNA news agency reported on Saturday.
A surprising addition to the launch was the presence of Kim’s daughter, whose existence had never been publicly confirmed before.
His unexpected appearance raises the possibility that the leadership of the totalitarian state could pass to a fourth generation of Kims and suggests nuclear weapons will be part of that legacy, analysts said.
KCNA did not name the girl, who is seen in photographs in a white puffy coat holding her father’s hand as they watched the huge missile.
“This is the first time we’ve seen Kim Jong Un’s daughter at a public event,” said Michael Madden, North Korean leadership expert at the US-based Stimson Center. “It’s very meaningful and represents a degree of comfort on Kim Jong Un’s part that he is bringing her out in public like this.”
Jenny Town of 38 North, a Washington-based North Korean research organization, said Kim was taking her daughter for an ICBM test and posting photos of the two of them watching the launch suggesting it was not about to take place. to give in to pressure to slow down its weapons programs. or resume negotiations.
“It has the gravity of passing on a legacy,” she said. “Those optics feel like they’re part of his legacy now as well.”
Kim would have up to three children, two girls and a boy, experts said. Some observers believe one of these children was seen in footage of a national holiday celebration in September.
In 2013, retired American basketball star Dennis Rodman said Kim had a “baby” daughter named Ju Ae. After a trip to North Korea that year, Rodman told The Guardian newspaper he spent time with Kim and her family and held the baby.
Ju Ae is estimated to be around 12-13 years old, which means that in four to five years she will be preparing to attend college or do her military service, Madden said.
“It would indicate that she will be educated and trained to be a leader – it could prepare her to take on the position of central leader, or she could become an advisor and behind-the-scenes player like her aunt,” he said.
North Korea never announced who would follow Kim if he was incapacitated, and with few details known about his children, analysts had speculated that his sister and her loyalists might form a regency until that a successor is old enough to take over.
The appearance of the leader’s daughter at this event could suggest fourth-generation hereditary succession, Madden added.
“His presence is aimed at an elite audience,” he said.
Kim’s wife, Ri Sol Ju, also made a rare appearance at Friday’s launch, according to KCNA.
“Whenever Ri Sol Ju appears, strategic messages are involved. Normally designed to ease tensions, counter other aggressive messages (like tests) or show Kim family cohesion in times of internal turmoil,” said Ken Gause, a leadership expert in North Korea. with CNA, a US-based non-profit research organization.
His presence also fits with a trend to “normalize” Kim’s politics within the regime and the dynamics around his position as supreme leader, Gause added.
Reporting by Josh Smith. Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Sandra Maler
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