In news reports on Friday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been seen hands in hands with his young daughter as he inspected the test-firing of the Hwasong-17, dubbed ‘monstrous ICBM.’ Kim’s child has thus been unveiled to the public for the first time. Three photos released by the North’s Korean Central News Agency show a young girl walking hands in hands with Kim in front of the missile just ahead of test-firing. She is believed to be Kim’s second daughter, Ju Ae, who is nine years old.
Pyongyang may have publicized images of the so-called Paekdu Blood (Kim Il Sung family) members at the site of the ICBM test-firing with multiple intentions. The North seeks to maximize the promotional effect of the successful test launch and emphasize to the North Korean public that its nuclear weapons development aims to ensure the security of ‘future generations’ rather than the ‘regime.’ In the same context, the North’s official Rodong Sinmun daily reiterated Pyongyang’s commitment to strengthen nuclear weapons by saying, “bright smiles and beautiful dreams of future generations.”
According to Korean Central News Agency, the Hwasong-17, which was fired at a high angle, reached a maximum altitude of 6,049 kilometers and flew about 1,000 kilometers. If launched at a normal angle (35 – 45 degrees), the missile is believed to have a max range of more than 15,000 kilometers, including the entire U.S. mainland within its target range. Designed to load multiple warheads, the missile can concurrently strike multiple cities, including Washington and New York. If Pyongyang secures reentry technology permitting the missile to endure high temperatures upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere, the Stalinist country will fully complete the development of a truly monstrous ICBM.
It is shocking to see Kim Jong Un take his wife, Ri Sol Ju, and his young daughter under 10 years old, to the site of a nuclear weapons show. Just like the Rodong Sinmun’s reports reading “Country that possesses the most powerful ICBM on this planet” and “the right for a preemptive strike is not an exclusive property of the US,” Kim might have wished to show off his strong confidence in the completion of nuclear weapons, or display his brinkmanship tactic even by putting his own’s daughter’s life as collateral.
What is clear is that Kim is falling into the vicious cycle of repeated misjudgments after telling Mike Pompeo, then director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, in 2018, “I don’t want my children to live life shouldering the burden of nuclear weapons throughout their life.” The opportunity cost that the North Korean economy incurs due to nuclear weapons is reportedly more than 1 trillion won (740 million U.S. dollars) annually. This is a massive burden that the North can hardly afford to shoulder after continuing to post negative economic growth for several years. It is out of the question for the world to lift sanctions against the North without denuclearization. With continued reinforcement of deterrence to the North’s nuclear proliferation, Pyongyang will increasingly fall into the abyss of depleting its national power and resources. Kim Jong Un is advised to realize that he will only leave isolation and poverty to his future generations, including his children.