Kim Jong-un has appeared in public with his “most-beloved” 10-year-old daughter for the second time in just over a week, deepening rumours he has chosen his successor.
The official Rodong Sinmun newspaper carried more than a dozen pictures of Kim and his daughter on Saturday at a ceremony celebrating the launch of the country’s newest intercontinental ballistic missile.
Dressed in a black coat with a fur collar, the girl – believed to be Kim’s second child, named Ju Ae – can be seen linking arms with her father as they pose in front of the gigantic missile surrounded by uniformed soldiers.
It follows the first public sighting of the girl last Saturday, as they inspected the missile ahead of its launch.
Until then, North Korean state media had not mentioned Kim’s children, with last week’s report the first official confirmation that he had a daughter, experts said.
The Hwasong-17, dubbed the “monster missile” by analysts, is believed to be capable of reaching the US mainland.
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said Kim’s daughter’s presence was meant to portray the missile as “the protector of the future generation”.
“It looks like he will continue to parade his daughter on various occasions and use her as a means for propaganda,” he added.
The Nov 18 ICBM test was the latest in a record-breaking blitz of missile launches by Pyongyang, with officials and analysts in Seoul and Washington warning they could culminate in a seventh nuclear test by North Korea, which last tested an atomic device in 2017.
Speaking at the celebration on Saturday, Kim said his country aimed to have the world’s most powerful nuclear force.
He hailed the new ICBM as “the world’s strongest strategic weapon” and said scientists had made a “wonderful leap forward in the development of the technology of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles”.
The suspected ICBM reached an altitude of 6,100km and flew 1,000km.
It comes as the nuclear-armed state rapidly advances its arsenal while denuclearisation talks have stalled.
Speaking of the first sighting of Kim’s daughter, analyst Michael Madden at the US-based Stimson Center said: “This is the first observed occasion where we have seen Kim Jong-un’s daughter at a public event.
“It is highly significant and represents a certain degree of comfort on Kim Jong-un’s part that he would bring her out in public in such a fashion.”
Soo Kim, a policy analyst at the Rand Corporation, a US think tank, said: “To introduce Kim’s daughter to the world at this juncture could be a message to the world that the North Korean regime is not going away.
She added: “In a way, it’s a symbolic picture of Kim passing the sceptre of rule to the next generation,” that sends “a message to the international community to accept and brace for North Korea’s fourth iteration of terror and belligerence”.