North Korea leader inspects rocket launch site with key party officials

According to South Korea media, « the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (and his sister Kim Yo-jong) inspected a rocket launching site in the country’s northwestern region accompanied by key party officials in charge of nuclear and missile development, Pyongyang’s state-run television showed Thursday. Kim Jong-un had observed facilities at the Dongchang-ri launch site where North Korea on Sunday launched a long-range rocket carrying what it called a satellite, according to documentary footage aired by the North’s Korean Central Television ».

Pak To-chun (1), Kim Jong-un (2), Kim Yo-jong (3) at the launching of the missile (image modified, source: KCNA)
Pak To-chun (1), Kim Jong-un (2), Kim Yo-jong (3) at the launching of the missile (image modified, source: KCNA)

His inspection is seen as having been made before the North lifted off its rocket, a move which Seoul and Washington view as a cover for a banned test of intercontinental ballistic missile technology. The footage showed North Korea’s Air Force One flying Kim to the area and a scene of the leader having a discussion with his party officials on the plane, spawning speculation that the North’s leader may have used the Ilyushin IL-62 plane to visit the launch site. Kim’s entourage included Ri Man-gon, who is presumed to have replaced Kim Chun-sop as the director handling munitions in the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea. The leader was also accompanied by Pak To-chun, former secretary of the munitions industry department, and Hong Yong-chil, deputy director of the machine-building industry department. Hong is suspected of having led the North’s fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6.

Recommendations/conclusions:

  • In order to sanction North Korean « bad » elites, I propose to halt some business with North Korea
  • Sanction entities which are cooperating with sanctioned North Korean entities
  • We can deduce that the hardliners are taking over in North Korea (nomination of Kim Yong-chol, death of Kim Yang-gon)

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Nicolas Levi

Analyst on North Korean issues

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