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What We're Watching: Parade in Pyongyang, Lula in DC, China balloon capabilities

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and daughter Kim Ju Ae attend a military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and daughter Kim Ju Ae attend a military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea.

North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) via REUTERS.

North Korea shows off ICBMs and ... a 10-year-old girl

North Korea's supreme leader made a big splash to mark the 75th anniversary of the army on Thursday by showing off his shiny new toys and — maybe — his heir. At a huge military parade in Pyongyang, Kim Jong Un beamed as he saluted a whopping 11 nuclear-armed ICBMs capable of reaching the US mainland, the largest number the regime has ever assembled in public, just two months after he demanded an "exponential increase" in the country's arsenal of nukes. Because each projectile has multiple nuclear warheads, a flurry could overwhelm US air defenses. What's more, the army also displayed a mockup of a new solid-fueled ICBM, which theoretically would be easier and faster to launch. But what really caught the attention of North Korea watchers was the presence beside the supreme leader of Kim Ju Ae, his 10-year-old daughter. The young girl, believed to be Kim's second child, met North Korea's top brass on Wednesday and has been seen five times alongside her dad in just two months, fueling speculation that Kim might someday pick her as his successor. That would be a tectonic shift for North Korea, not because of her age — after all, her father grew up around generals — but due to the country's deeply patriarchal society. Still, what matters more than gender is being a Kim, and right now the country's second most powerful person is Kim Yo Jong, the supreme leader's famously feisty sister.

Lula goes to the White House

Brazil’s new left-wing President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva visits Joe Biden at the White House on Friday in a bid to reset bilateral ties after a rocky few years under his far-right predecessor, Trump-fan Jair Bolsonaro. Biden and Lula will find much to agree on beyond a shared disdain for their predecessors. Climate change is one thing as Lula has put the environment at the center of his agenda these days and will look to get Biden to join his Amazon fund to protect the rainforest. But things will get dicier as talk turns to Ukraine, where Lula has blamed Zelensky and Putin equally for the war, and won’t send military aid to the Ukrainians. His proposal to form a “Peace Club” to negotiate an end to the conflict is likely to get a cool reception at the White House, especially since Lula wants it to include China. Speaking of China, that’s an area where Biden will need to tread carefully himself: Washington’s biggest global rival is Brazil’s number one trade partner. Hanging over all of this? Bolsonaro, who is still kicking it in South Florida to avoid facing charges back home for inciting the “January 6” style riots that followed Lula’s inauguration last month.

US: China’s balloon was equipped to gather intel

Washington is popping holes in Beijing’s claims that the balloon it shot down over South Carolina’s coast last weekend was simply a weather device. The State Department released declassified intelligence on Thursday showing that the balloon was equipped with antennas capable of “intelligence collection operations” that could intercept calls on communications devices. What’s more, the US believes this was just one of many balloons from a wider fleet of Chinese aircraft that have floated over 40 countries. Federal investigators are still combing through the debris for answers, but some Republicans have criticized the Biden administration for not providing more information soon enough. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives, in a rare show of unity, united on Thursday to pass a nonbinding resolution 419-0 condemning the incident as a “brazen violation of United States sovereignty." The balloon crisis has dashed hopes – along with Sec. of State Antony Blinken’s planned visit last week to Beijing – of improving US-China relations in the near term. And, as Ian Bremmer wrote for GZERO this week, this episode makes it clear that “Washington and Beijing will struggle mightily to prevent a drift toward escalation.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this piece incorrectly stated that China is Brazil's number one investment partner. China is Brazil's biggest trade partner, but the top spot for investment is the US. We regret the error.


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