Kim Jong-un's wife pictured wearing missile pendant as new rocket unveiled
Kim Jong-un’s wife has been spotted wearing a pendant in the shape of North Korea’s largest intercontinental ballistic missile ahead of a military parade to flaunt the pariah regime’s nuclear firepower.
The silver pendant was a centrepiece of Ri Sol Ju’s accessories on Tuesday night as she smiled serenely at a banquet table while flanked by decorated military chiefs. It appeared to mirror the Hwasong-17 ICBM, which was test-launched last year, and which could be capable of striking the United States.
The actual Hwasong-17 was showcased alongside a suspected new, solid-fuel ICBM at a widely-anticipated mass parade in central Pyongyang on Wednesday night, where Kim Jong-un's daughter also took centre stage.
The nighttime parade on Wednesday featured the country’s newest technology and largest missiles, including at least 11 previously tested ICBMs and tactical nuclear weapons units, state media reported on Thursday, referring to short-range systems for use on the battlefield.
The event, to celebrate the military’s 75th anniversary, kicked off around 10pm with fireworks and music, before the arsenal was unveiled to cheering crowds as Kim, his wife and daughter smiled and waved from a balcony.
Kim Jong-un, dressed in thick black coat and hat, saluted alongside his generals, while his daughter Ju-ae, also dressed in formal attire, clapped proudly at the spectacle. Believed to be his second-born child and about ten years old, the parade is Ju-ae's fifth public appearance since November, fueling speculation she is being groomed for power.
On Tuesday, she joined army generals at a banquet at a high-end Pyongyang hotel where Kim lauded the "irresistible might" of his nuclear-armed military. Her dark-coloured suit and white blouse were adorned with a black and silver brooch but she was not wearing a missile pendant like her mother, who is widely regarded in North Korea as a style icon.
State media has repeatedly referred to her as the "beloved daughter" and appears to be setting the stage for a future high-profile role, although some analysts believe her presence may be a ploy to cultivate Kim's image as a family man.
State media did not offer immediate details about the weaponry but analysts, citing commercial satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies, identified the largest ever ICBM, the Hwasong-17, as well as what could be a new solid-fuel ICBM.
“Following the apparent Hwasong-17 ICBM pairs are four unidentified but apparently similarly sized canisterised systems," Joseph Dempsey, a defence researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said on Twitter.
Most of the country’s largest ballistic missiles in its nuclear arsenal use liquid propellants, which makes them easier to target in a pre-emptive strike because the fuel takes hours to load.
Converting missiles from liquid to solid fuel has been a major goal for the Kim regime as it makes these weapons easier to hide and transport and quicker to launch.
However, it is unclear how close the suspected new missile could be to testing as the regime has sometimes displayed mockups at the parades.
Ankit Panda, of the United States–based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, concluded that the weapon was a mock-up but that it was “more credible” than a similar one paraded in 2017, “given broad progress in solid rocket motors."
In December, North Korea said it had successfully tested a solid-fuel rocket motor, topping off a record year for missile test launches.
He tweeted that 10-12 Hwasong-17s had made an appearance, “cumulatively more ICBM launchers than we've ever seen before at a North Korean parade.”
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said that Kim’s regime had chosen nuclear weapons over diplomacy and the economy.
“The message Pyongyang wants to send internationally, demonstrating its capabilities to deter and coerce, will likely come in the form of solid-fuel missile tests and detonation of a miniaturised nuclear device,” he said.