North Korea shows off its largest long-range missile system

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North Korea has carried out its largest-ever display of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which a number of analysts say could potentially challenge the US defense system.

About a dozen long-range intercontinental missiles were shown at the military parade on Wednesday.

Leader Kim Jong-un was spotted during a midnight parade with his young daughter.

Kim Joo-ae’s appearance has fueled speculation that she is being positioned as the successor.

The number of long-range missiles displayed in the parade is a cause for concern. Analysts say the number of missiles that could theoretically hit the US mainland could potentially damage US nuclear defenses if each missile carries multiple warheads.

North Korean media did not provide details, but said such an arsenal demonstrated the country’s “powerful war deterrence and counterattack potential.”

Photos released by North Korean media on Thursday morning showed more than a dozen intercontinental ballistic missiles rolling through a central square in Pyongyang, accompanied by an army of soldiers.

image captionMissile launchers are on display at the parade

Some North Korean analysts said the display also featured a new intercontinental ballistic missile launcher that appeared to be designed to host a solid-fuel missile.

Solid rockets can be launched faster than liquid rockets, which are difficult to defend against.

However, the Kim regime has never successfully tested long-range solid-fuel missiles.

“This is one of the main goals of North Korea’s nuclear modernization,” said Ankit Panda, a nuclear policy specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“We should expect to see the first flight tests of longer-range solid rockets in the coming months,” he told the BBC.

He added that North Korea’s expanding ICBM arsenal poses potentially “serious military planning challenges” for the US in a conflict, as it would be difficult for the US to locate and destroy all of North Korea’s mobile ICBMs.

The parade comes after a record year of missile tests by North Korea in violation of UN economic sanctions. This has led to several outbreaks of tension on the Korean Peninsula.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency said the parade highlighted the country’s ability to confront its enemies “with nuclear weapon after nuclear weapon, confrontation after confrontation.”

In the images released, Mr. Kim, wearing a black coat and fedora, surveys rows of soldiers holding bayonets and salutes passing military and missile units.

He was also photographed watching the parade from a balcony with Joo-ae.

Another key point of discussion for observers was the rise of Ju-ae, who is believed to be around 10 years old.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, his wife Ri Sol-ju and their daughter Kim Ju-ae attend a banquet to mark the 75th anniversary of the Korean People's Army next day in Pyongyang, North Korea, Feb. 7, 2023, in this photo released on Feb. 8 , 2023 North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
image captionKim Joo-ae with father Kim Jong-un and mother Ri Sol-ju at a banquet

State media photos showed her taking center stage at a pre-parade banquet with military leaders, where she sat in the center between Mr Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, a seat usually reserved for her father.

The Trinity was depicted with a smile, and senior military commanders stood nearby. Ms Ri was also seen wearing a pendant necklace shaped like the Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile, North Korea’s largest missile, which was test-launched last year.

While some analysts say this points to Juae as Mr Kim’s heir apparent, others say the state may be portraying the North Korean leader as a “family man”.

“It’s hard not to notice that Kim’s daughter took part in the banquet. North Korea’s state propagandists are clearly trying to portray Kim Jong-un as a family man, but the exclusion of his other daughter in question is interesting,” said Martin Williams, senior fellow at the Stimson Center on North Korea.

Kim Jong Un is reported to have at least three children, including an older son and a younger daughter. Joo-ae is considered to be his second child.

She first appeared in public just three months ago, in November, when her father took her to the launch of a large intercontinental ballistic missile.

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