Kim Jong-un’s daughter joined the Supreme Leader for a historic military parade Wednesday, fueling speculations about her future in North Korean leadership.
Kim Ju-ae, believed to be at least 9 years old, appeared next to her father for the lavish event celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army (KPA). The military parade was also attended by Kim’s wife, Ri Sol-ju.
Reportedly the second of Kim’s three children, Ju-ae was first seen at the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last November.
While her appearances suggest that she is simply Kim’s “favorite child,” there is a growing likelihood that “she’s either being fully groomed for leadership or at least floated as a possibility,” Hankuk University professor Mason Richey told Reuters. Such claims gained further evidence when she sat at the center of the lead table on Wednesday’s banquet, while state media KCNA dubbed her as Kim’s “beloved” daughter.
Wednesday’s event included a display of North Korea’s growing collection of nuclear missiles.
Despite the United Nations’ continued efforts to prevent North Korea’s missile testing through resolutions and sanctions, the recent show of hard power revealed more ICBMs than ever before.
Photos released by KCNA show about 10 Hwasong-17s. As North Korea’s largest ICBM, Hwasong-17s reportedly carry multiple nuclear warheads to anywhere in the world.
An unidentified missile encased in a canister and transported on a 9-axle vehicle also made an appearance, but it’s unclear whether it was real or a mockup.
And while political leaders throughout the world – including the U.S., South Korea, Japan and international organizations – have encouraged the country to stop nuclear threats and negotiate for denuclearization, North Korea insists their ongoing missile and nuclear weapons development is part of their sovereign right of self-defense.
In recent years, the authoritarian country pursued military programs in the face of rapidly deteriorating economic conditions. The recent public appearances of Ju-ae could be potential forms of propaganda to support national defense for future generations, North Korea expert Rachel Minyoung Lee from Open Nuclear Network told Reuters:
The North Korean leadership probably has to make the case for why the country has to keep investing in national defence in spite of the deteriorating economic conditions. And no propaganda can be more potent than the leader’s young daughter to convey that message.