The 9-year-old daughter of North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un made another public appearance, fueling fresh speculation about the Hermit Kingdom’s succession.
Ju Ae, one of three children Kim is believed to have, has now appeared twice in a week at her father’s side after living in relative obscurity inside the isolated Asian nation.
State media’s description of Ju Ae as the dictator’s “most beloved” or “precious” child has some experts believing she may be the heir to the kingdom.
“This is certainly striking,” Ankit Panda, a North Korea expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the PBS News Hour.
“The photograph of Kim Ju Ae standing next to her father as he is celebrated by technicians and scientists involved in the latest ICBM launch will support the idea that this is the start of her being positioned as a potential successor,” Panda said.
“State media emphasizing her father’s love for her further emphasizes this, I think,” he said. “Finally, both of her public appearances have been related to strategic nuclear weapons—the crown jewels of North Korea’s national defense capability.
“It doesn’t seem like a coincidence to me,” Panda added.
The youngster’s latest appearance came when she was photographed next to her father with a group of scientists and technicians believed to be working on North Korea’s Hwasong-17 missile, Kim’s latest nuclear obsession, PBS reported.
The photos were published on Sunday by the Korean Central News Agency, the country’s state-controlled media.
Last weekend, the cheeky girl was revealed to most of the outside world, walking hand in hand with her father at a nuclear missile test site.
Kim’s private life has remained largely secret outside the country, and experts believe the dictator and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, who married in 2009, have three children.
“We have been told that Kim has three children, including possibly a son,” Soo Kim, a security analyst at the RAND Corporation in California, told the PBS News Hour.
“If this is true, and if we assume that the male child – who has yet to be revealed – will be the heir, is Ju Ae really Kim’s most ‘precious’ from a secession point of view?” Kim said. “I think it’s too early to draw any conclusions.”