Has Kim Jong Un Ever Looked Happier Than in This Celebration of an SLBM Launch?
North Korea's latest missile test is the latest development in its effort to bolster its nuclear deterrence capabilities.
North Korean state media announced over the weekend that it had reached a major milestone in the country’s attempt to improve its missile capabilities: the successful firing of a submarine launched ballistic missile. The event was of course accompanied by the requisite release of triumphant photographs, including this gem, which has us wondering: Have you ever seen the supreme leader of North Korea look happier?
Cigarette and binoculars in hand, hair ruffled by the ocean breeze, smoke-stained chompers on full display, Kim Jong Un is something of a study here in gleeful despotism basking in glow of his military’s latest advance. And it’s no surprise he’s happy in this photograph: The step forward of an SLBM is a major advance for North Korea, which has been rumored to be preparing an ocean-launched missile for several months.
Still, North Korean armed forces have a long way to go before they put these missiles aboard their submarines. The missile in question reportedly only traveled about 150 meters, and the test’s primary aim was to show the feasibility of the first, tricky step of putting a missile in the air from below the ocean’s surface. According to arms experts, the missile fired on Saturday bears a resemblance to the SS-N-6 “Serb” missile, which the Soviet Union used aboard some of its nuclear-armed submarines. It’s also unclear whether North Korea has perfected the process of sufficiently miniaturizing nuclear warheads to place atop a missile of this nature.
This test should be seen as an incremental step toward North Korea’s goal of strengthening its nuclear deterrent, and Kim is placing himself in the front and center of that project, positioning himself in the propaganda images released strangely close to the missile launch. It’s difficult to judge distance in this photograph, but it would certainly appear that Kim was either much too close for safety to an untested weapon or was photoshopped in after the fact.
Other images show Kim observing the launch:
Also released were images of the missile’s launch: