Kim Jong Un oversaw what looks like the successful launch of a ballistic missile that reached an altitude of 1,000 km and got over half way to Japan’s main island of Honshu.
Experts said the launch, which came after five failed tests including one earlier the same day, marked progress in North Korea’s weapons program, and underlined Kim’s steely determination as well as his patience with scientists involved.
Reclusive North Korea’s state propaganda has painted Kim as a demanding but generous and understanding leader willing to forgive the failures of its scientists.
That contrasts with his reputation overseas as ruthless and impulsive, after he executed his own uncle, replaced his defense chief five times and defied the world with two nuclear tests.
Michael Madden, an expert on political leadership in the North who has contributed to the Washington-based 38 North think-tank, said rumors of technicians behind failures being shot or purged were “nonsense”.
“One thing to note is that people don’t get shot behind failures,” said Madden, who edits North Korea Leadership Watch. “They get shot because they lie in their reporting or refuse to accept responsibility.”