Chosun Ilbo is reporting that two critical officials who oversee North Korea’s missile program have been absent from recent national events, spurring speculation that a new missile launch is in the works.
The major Seoul-based newspaper said that the pair were nowhere to be seen at a mass rally in Pyongyang on Saturday and a Workers Party anniversary on Tuesday. One is Ri Man-gon, who supervises the party’s department in charge of nuclear weapons and missile development. The other is Kim Rak-gyom, the head of the Strategic Rocket Forces who oversees ballistic missile launches.
“Ri and Kim were not seen in the footage and images released by North Korean state media of a full session of the party’s committee last Saturday,” a government source told Chosun Ilbo earlier this week.
A staffer at a government-funded think tank was also quoted as saying that it’s unlikely the two ‘rocket men’ were purged or dismissed.
Western analysts are speculating that Pyongyang will soon test another intercontinental ballistic missile based on satellite images of North Korean facilities taken in late September.