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The 33-year-old sister of dictator Kim Jong-un rose to prominence last year with a number of hostile statements towards the West. She branded defectors “human scum” and “mongrel dogs” last year and warned of “invisible enemies” outside the hermit state. Today reports emerged that North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, a body of water that stretches between the two nations.
Japan’s President Yoshihide Suga warned the action threatened “peace and safety” and they would coordinate with the US and South Korea in retaliation.
The recent provocation from North Korea, which is one of more than 110 missile tests since Kim Jong-un rose to power, could reignite tensions and threaten war.
The new threat followed claims that the hermit state head, known as the ‘Supreme Leader’, was “gravely ill” last year.
Many tipped his sister Kim Yo-jong as the future successor of North Korea after she made a number of statements on behalf of the nation.
Chris Mikul, who wrote My Favourite Dictators, told Express.co.uk that the nation was “fairly sexist and patriarchal” so it was an unusual move.
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He pointed out that it may be “a step too far” for a woman to ascend to power but you “could never know” with North Korea.
He told Express.co.uk: “Kim Jong-un appeared to identify her as his left-hand woman, but a little while ago she disappeared from view and it was thought she was out of favour until she reappeared again.
“People often go in and out of favour, leading many to think a person has been killed only for them to appear at a meeting.”
Since Kim Jong-un took over from his father, Kim Jong-il, in 2011, the leader has fiercely fought to protect his reign and family’s legacy.
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During his first five years in charge, he executed more than 340 dissidents, according to a South Korean think-tank.
They included his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, who was killed after being accused of three “cursed acts of treachery” and “betrayal”.
After the leader’s half-brother Kim Jong-nam was assassinated with the deadly VX nerve agent in 2017, North Korea was accused of being behind it.
The state branded the claims “absurd” but it was known that Kim Jong-nam, who was the supposed heir to power, posed a threat to the leader.
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Kim Yo-jong was tipped as a future successor for her brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un
As the eldest son of Kim Jong-il it was believed he would become the next leader before he was caught using a fake passport to visit Tokyo Disneyland in 2001.
The nation’s staunch anti-Western stance led him to fall out of favour, according to the documentary ASSASSINS, which came out in January.
They alleged Kim Jong-un’s mother tipped off authorities in a bid to ensure her son would become the leader of North Korea – the claims have never been addressed.
Kim Jong-un has not taken kindly to threats toward his leadership, including when he first took over.
Mr Mikul told Express.co.uk that the leader would do anything to protect the regime’s success and raised concern about Kim Yo-jong’s safety.
Kim Jong-nam, the eldest half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was assassinated in 2017
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He said there would be a “fight at the top” among the inner circle if Kim Jong-un died because “no clear successor” had been named.
The leader’s sister is the Deputy Director of the United Front Department, which deals with South Korean issues, and has seemed to be gaining increased power in recent years.
This included representing the nation at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Seoul and making a number of threats against Western enemies.
Shortly before the hermit state blew-up a building to help communications with South Korea, Kim Yo-jong denounced the southern state.
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Prior to then, a provocation from a woman or anyone other than Kim Jong-un had never been witnessed.
At the time, it was claimed the leader was undergoing heart surgery as he had not been publicly seen for several months.
North Korea has never confirmed or denied the claims about Kim Jong-un’s health – a regular practice as part of the nation’s ‘hermit state’ approach.
The beliefs that the leader may look to reduce his sister’s power and influence stemmed from claims about his desire to remain in absolute power.
Kim Yo-jong warned of ‘invisible enemies’ in the West and branded defectors ‘human scum’ last year
It’s claimed this desire to preserve the Kim family legacy is behind their laser-focused pursuit of developing a nuclear arsenal.
This came despite years of international sanctions and the World Health Organisation’s report that 40 percent of the nation, 25.5 million people, didn’t have enough food.
It also followed a 2012 International Trade Centre Map that found Kim Jong-un frittered away £33million of fine wines, chocolate, Champagne and Swiss cheese.
Despite the grim findings, Kim Jong-un continues to press-on with further spending on the nation’s world-ending weapon’s stockpile to protect his family at all costs.
Mr Mikul told Express.co.uk: “The reason they want nuclear weapons is because they know it’s an insurance policy that will keep the regime in power forever – and he’s done it.”
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The Centre For Strategic International Studies warned more missile tests could be on the way in an episode of The Impossible State podcast last year.
North Korea expert Victor Cha argued that the state would “refuse to be ignored” and would “force themselves onto the [US] agenda with provocations”.
He claimed they would “ramp up” missile tests under US President Joe Biden’s policy of “strategic patience”.
Fellow hermit state commentator Sue Mi Terry said: “They need to reset the stage to increase leverage or get back to negotiations and we do not want to test this.”