Celebrations are underway in North Korea following the launch of the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missile – and even Kim Jong Un’s elusive wife Ri Sol Ju has made a rare appearance following a four-month absence from the public eye.
Ri, who married the despot in 2009, is infrequently seen in the notoriously secretive Communist state, at times prompting speculation from North Korea watchers that she might be either pregnant or experiencing marital woes with the famously fickle leader.
But she was right there by his side at a special banquet to celebrate the successful test-launch of Hwasong-14, along with officials, scientists and defence technicians who contributed to the launch.
Footage of the event in Pyongyang featured a demure Ri sitting to the right of the dictator in a room festooned with bunting and featuring phallic table decorations in the form of miniature rockets and extremely large bowls of bananas.
Ri was last seen in public in March, prompting speculation her absence may have meant another pregnancy. She and Kim are already believed to be parents to a baby daughter – as “confirmed” by somewhat unlikely best friend Dennis Rodman in 2013.
In 2016 South Korea’s largest news agency Yonghap News tallied that Ri had accompanied Kim on public outings 18 times in 2012, 22 times in 2013 and 15 times in 2014. In 2015 she was spotted just seven times and last year it was just three.
It described a seven month absence in 2016 as “quite extraordinary”, though pointed out Ri had briefly suspended her public activities in 2013 after allegations linking her to lewd videos involving members of a North Korean girl band.
After the missile launch banquet, Kim was later feted at a concert replete with pop music and thunderous applause, the official Korean Central News Agency reported.
Among the numbers performed for the Dear Leader were “Song of Hwasong Rocket” and “Make Others Envy Us.”
Pyongyang has been the scene of a slew of special events to mark the July 4 launch of Hwasong-14, which is believed to be capable of reaching most of Alaska and possibly farther.
The launch is being treated as a major national milestone in North Korea, with the government and media touting it as a technological breakthrough few other nations have achieved.
Experts believe the two-stage, liquid-fuel missile gives Kim the capability of reaching most of Alaska and possibly Hawaii. Some experts add Seattle and San Francisco. North Korea’s missiles aren’t very accurate, so big, soft targets like cities are what they would be aimed at.