Kim Jong-un gives strongest hint yet about his successor at key military event
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s appearance at an event to commemorate the 75th founding anniversary of the military with his daughter by his side strongly signalled his succession plans.
The supreme leader’s daughter Kim Ju Ae was seen in several state photos walking alongside Mr Kim and her mother Ri Sol-ju and seated next to her father as the two were surrounded by some of the top military officials of the country at the feast to mark the event.
This was Ju’s fourth public appearance confirmed by North Korean state media after which she visited the lodging quarters of generals of the Korean People’s Army.
“Commanding officers of the ministry of national defence and military and political commanding officers of the KPA large combined units and combined units greeted with the warmest reverence the respected Comrade Kim Jong-un, whom they wanted to see even in their dreams, when he arrived at the lodging quarters together with his daughter,” reported the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
The official newspaper of the North Korean ruling party, Rodong Sinmun, described the child, believed to be of nine or 10 years of age, as Mr Kim’s "respected daughter". The paper described her as the centre of attention alongside her father.
She is the first child of Mr Kim to enter the public limelight for whom the word "respected" was used in Wednesday’s report by Rodong Sinmun.
In his speech to the soldiers, Mr Kim praised them for maintaining the “world’s strongest military”, even as the hermit kingdom is battling external difficulties, according to KCNA.
The top leader also lauded the “irresistible might” of his nuclear-armed military.
“Whenever I see our service personnel fighting unyieldingly with the might of the will surpassing their mental and physical limitations in the theatres of defending the national sovereignty and the people and epoch-making creation, I cannot but bow to them,” he said.
He added that the North Korean army’s “gallant, dignified, strong and resolute looks are a trait peculiar to it” and confirm its devotion to “the greatest sacred cause and its arms serve the most righteous cause in the world”.
“...the display of an irresistible might unique to our army that comes from the unusual sense of responsibility and superhuman will that it can neither be broken nor fall until it has fulfilled the duty entrusted by the Party Central Committee,” the North Korean leader said.
All along, his daughter Ju stood nearby as Mr Kim continued to shake the hands of senior officials and sat next to him at the table.
Experts monitoring this surprising display of the family by the North Korean leader have said that Mr Kim’s move to have his daughter accompany him to public events is linked to his military ambitions.
Mr Kim apparently sees this display as the strongest guarantee of his survival and the extension of his family’s dynastic rule, analysts say.
The state media’s descriptions of Ju as “respected” and “beloved” have also sparked debate on whether she’s being primed as her father’s successor.
In her first appearance, deemed iconic, Ju attended a flight test of an intercontinental ballistic missile in November, following which she accompanied her father to a meeting with military scientists and an inspection of ballistic missiles.
However, some have also pointed out that this display of succession might cause more harm than good to the dynastic rule.
“It’s still too early to be labeling Kim’s daughter as his successor. But it’s clear that North Korea’s economic and diplomatic failures have led Kim to associate his brand ever more with the military,” said Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.
He added: “These images may be unwelcome in Beijing because North Korea’s Chinese sponsors would prefer to deal with developmental dictators and economic technocrats rather than a family dynasty wielding nuclear missiles.”