North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been seen with a smartphone. Usually, this would be a normal thing but when you consider that North Korea is banned from import or export of electronic devices, question arises, is the top leader of North Korea using a smuggled phone? Moreover, the ‘foldable phone’ has featured in a photo taken by the country’s official KCNA news agency.

The device, silver in color was seen encased in a black cover on a table Kim Jong Un is sitting at when he was observing the launch of North Korea’s newest and most powerful ballistic missile this week. It was a solid-fuel Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).AFP reported that the phone looked strikingly similar to Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip phone or China’s Huawei Pocket S phones.

The photo has fueled speculation immediately. “If the object in the photo is a foldable phone, it is highly likely that it was secretly smuggled to North Korea via China,” South Korea’s Joongang Ilbo newspaper reported. Kim Jong Un is known for his love of gadgets. He has in past, been pictured using what looked like Apple products, including iPads and MacBooks. United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimates that only about 19 per cent of the North Korean population has access to mobile phones.

The missile launch

The ICBM launched on July 12 has been fired only once before, in April. On Wednesday, the missile flew 1001 kilometers at a maximum altitude of 6,648 km before splashing into the East Sea, according to KCNA. The East Sea is also known as the Sea of Japan.

KCNA further said that the launch was a “grand explosion” that shook “the whole planet”. Footage on the state media showed the missile blasting off into the sky.

Kim vowed that “a series of stronger military offensive” would be launched until the United States and South Korea change their policies towards North Korea, the agency added. Citing the “unstable situation” on the Korean peninsula, Kim also called for “more intense efforts” to boost North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. 

The confirmation of the launch — which the South Korean military had reported on Wednesday — came with relations between the two Koreas at one of their lowest points ever. Diplomacy has stalled. Kim Jong Un has called for ramping up weapons deployment. This includes tactical nukes.

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