Top North Korean officials in missile program missing f…

Two key officials involved in North Korea’s nuclear and missile program were reportedly nowhere to be seen during public events this week, fueling speculation that another missile launch or nuke test could be imminent.

Ri Man-gon, supervisor of the department for the nuclear and missile development, and Kim Rak-gyom, the head of the strategic rocket forces, were noticeably missing at a Saturday mass rally in Pyongyang and a Tuesday celebration for the anniversary of the Worker’s Party of Korea, according to South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo.

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A government-funded organization staff member told the publication there was “little chance” the top officials were removed from their positions because they were “praised for [recent] major achievements.”

“It’s highly likely that they were absent because they’d been given an important assignment,” the individual said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised a ballistic rocket launching drill of Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the KPA on the spot in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang March 7, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERSATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC1A482860C0

Kim Rak-gyom (circled) is pictured with Kim Jong Un in March 2017. South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo said the commander joined Kim in the visit to the military base.

 (Reuters)

The discovery were based on recently released photos of celebrations and rallies on Saturday and Tuesday. Ri and Kim have been present at previous public events.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) visits the Sinuiju Measuring Instrument Factory in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 4, 2015.   REUTERS/KCNA    ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. - GF10000193127

Ri Man-gon (circled) is pictured with Kim Jong Un in September 2015 at Sinuiji Measuring Instrument Factory.

 (Reuters)

Officials have warned that North Korea could use special holidays to launch a new missile. Monday marked the anniversary of the country’s first nuclear bomb test carried out 11 years ago. North Korean citizens also continued to celebrate the Worker’s Party anniversary throughout the week.

The Hermit Kingdom has carried out its previous nuclear tests during Memorial Day Weekend, Lunar New Year celebrations in China and Kim Jong Un’s birthday.

Pyongyang carried out its last missile launch in September. That missile flew over Japan before splashing into the Pacific Ocean. The missile reached a height of 480 miles and flew 2,300 miles out, putting Guam in range for a possible strike that Kim Jong Un has threatened in recent months.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho continued his scathing attack on Wednesday after President Trump’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly, saying the U.S. president “lit the wick of war” with his words.

“We need to settle the final score, only with a hail of fire, not words,” Ri said to Russia’s state-run TASS news agency.

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