SEOUL – As North Korea launched its largest ballistic missile on Friday, the country’s leader Kim Jong-un appeared at the launch along with his wife Ri Sol-ju and a young girl who had never been seen publicly before.
A series of images released by the state news agency showed the girl, who was walking hand-in-hand with Mr Kim and wearing a white down jacket, black trousers and red dress shoes, with her hair tied in a ponytail.
She is Mr Kim’s daughter, North Korean state media confirmed. Mr Kim attended the launch “with his beloved daughter and wife,” it said on Saturday. Photos of her appeared on the second page of Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s main state newspaper.
It’s been quite a day for Mr Kim to reveal a daughter to the world – and the North Korean people. The test was one of the most successful of several ICBM tests his country conducted this year. State media called it a milestone in strengthening the country’s nuclear power. After the test, Mr Kim reiterated his pledge to “react to nuclear weapons with nuclear weapons” and engage in “direct confrontation” with enemy threats.
Together, the two watched as the missile was transported to the launch site in a giant military truck and then launched into the air.
North Korea’s missile tests
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UN resolutions. Tensions on the Korean peninsula began to rise in 2017 when North Korea tested three intercontinental ballistic missiles and conducted a nuclear test. The United Nations imposed sanctions, and Pyongyang temporarily suspended testing of nuclear and long-range missiles.
Little is known about the ruling family of North Korea. No outsider has reported ever seeing any of the couple’s other children. But South Korean intelligence officials believe Mr Kim and Ms Ri have had three children since their secret marriage: a son, a daughter and a third child whose gender is unknown.
North Korean state media did not reveal the name or age of the girl in the photos. But researchers studying North Korea say her name is most likely Kim Ju-ae and that she is likely Mr. Kim’s second child.
North Korea had never previously disclosed the existence of Mr Kim’s daughter, although Mr Kim’s wife, Ms Ri, was spotted pregnant on North state television in 2012. In 2013, retired NBA star Dennis Rodman said he met Mr. Kim’s daughter, then a baby, on a visit to Pyongyang. In an interview with The Guardian, Mr. Rodman said her name was Ju-ae and that Mr. Kim trusted him enough to be held by him.
Mr. Kim’s decision to appear at the rocket launch with his daughter may have been a way to indicate that his nuclear program would be a multi-generational effort. “They will keep their nuclear forces for the long haul,” said Ankit Panda, nuclear expert for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in an interview. Mr Kim has stated that he would never give up his nuclear weapons.
Mr Kim’s own first appearance in North Korean state media was in 2010, shortly after he was named to succeed his father Kim Jong-il, who was ill at the time and died the following year. The photo, published on the front page of Rodong Sinmun, showed him in a dark suit with his father and a large group of senior party officials.
The missile launched on Friday was the North’s newest and most powerful ICBM, South Korean defense officials said. It appeared to be a Hwasong-17 that North Korea unveiled in 2020 but has had trouble launching since. Friday’s test showed progress: missile experts said it could theoretically reach anywhere in the United States.
North Korea said the missile launch was in response to the “ruthless military confrontation by the United States and enemy forces” that “is pushing the military and political situation of the Korean Peninsula to the brink of danger.”