The man who could launch WWIII: Commander in chief of North Korea's nuclear force warns of mid-August strike on Guam and ominously tells troops 'wait for my order'

  • General Kim Rak-Gyom is often pictured with Kim Jong-un at missile launches
  • He has been head of North Korea's rocket command since promotion in 2012
  • Today he remarkably dismissed Donald Trump's threats as¬†'a load of nonsense'
  • He said North Korea's planned strike near US territory of Guam will go ahead

He is Kim Jong-un's shadow, following the North Korean president from missile launch to military parade.

General Kim Rak-gyom is often seen smiling and joking with his subordinates but, much like his despotic leader, he is far more dangerous than his jovial exterior suggests.

As head of North Korea's rocket command, he is believed to have his finger on the proverbial button, with as many as 60 suspected nuclear warheads at his disposal.

Hours before Kim Jong-un announced he was looking into the logistics of striking the remote Pacific island, host to thousands of US servicemen and submarines, Donald Trump vowed 'fire and fury' if he threatened his country.

General Kim Rak-gyom went one further by branding Trump's remarks 'a load of nonsense' - and the US president 'senile'.  

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General Kim Rak-gyom (right), head of North Korea's rocket command, is often seen smiling and joking with his subordinates alongside leader Kim Jong-un

General Kim Rak-gyom (right), head of North Korea's rocket command, is often seen smiling and joking with his subordinates alongside leader Kim Jong-un

Kim Rak-gyom (pictured instructing Kim Jong-un) is believed to have his finger on the proverbial button, with as many as 60 suspected nuclear warheads at his disposal

Kim Rak-gyom (pictured instructing Kim Jong-un) is believed to have his finger on the proverbial button, with as many as 60 suspected nuclear warheads at his disposal

'Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason,' he went on, claiming the Guam plan would be completed by mid-August.

He said the North planned to launch four missiles simultaneously, which would take precisely 17 minutes 45 seconds to travel 2,086 miles before coming down 24 miles from Guam - just outside US territorial waters.

And, if his rhetoric is to be believed, he has his sights on a US military base in Guam, around 2,100 miles from the Korean Peninsula. 

Little is known about the mysterious officer, who today went toe-to-toe with Trump in one of the most striking escalation between the two nations. 

In fact news outlets, including those in neighbouring South Korea, cannot even seem to agree on which one of Kim Jong-un's entourage he actually is.

We do know Kim Rak-gyom was promoted from two to four-star general in June 2012, around six months after Kim Jong-un ascended to power.

Kim Rak-gyom (left, according to several news outlets) has his sights on a US military base in Guam, around 2,100 miles from the Korean Peninsula

Kim Rak-gyom (left, according to several news outlets) has his sights on a US military base in Guam, around 2,100 miles from the Korean Peninsula

Kim Rak-gyom (left, according to Yonhap news agency) said the North planned to launch four missiles simultaneously which would come down 24 miles from Guam

Kim Rak-gyom (left, according to Yonhap news agency) said the North planned to launch four missiles simultaneously which would come down 24 miles from Guam

He was appointed commander of North Korea's newly created Strategic Rocket Force Command, the first sign that Kim Jong-un wanted to accelerate the country's missile program.

It put rocket development on par with the army and air force and gave Kim Rak-gyom a direct line to the president, the Australian reported.

'When one is firmly equipped with the capability to make precision strikes with nuclear weapons… no aggressor can dare to attack recklessly,' the North Korean leader said at the time.

But a position as Kim's right hand man comes with its own, very unique set of hazards.

In February, following a string of failed nuclear Intercontinental Ballistic Missile tests, it was reported that Kim Rak-gyom had not been seen in around six months, including at the 69th anniversary of the creation of the North’s military.

He re-emerged a month later during a North Korean missile launch in which the military claimed it was practising to hit US military bases in Japan. 

After successful missile launches which have angered world leaders, Kim Jong-un is also seen celebrating, hugging and sharing a celebratory smoke with the same three men.

The three men often seen celebrating with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (centre) are (from left to right) veteran rocket scientist Kim Jong Sik, former air force general Ri Pyong Chol and head of weapons development Jang Chang Ha

The three men often seen celebrating with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (centre) are (from left to right) veteran rocket scientist Kim Jong Sik, former air force general Ri Pyong Chol and head of weapons development Jang Chang Ha

 The trio is said to be indispensable to North Korea's rapidly developing weapons programme. Pictured from left to right behind dictator Kim: Ri Pyong Chol, Kim Jong Sik and Jang Chang Ha

 The trio is said to be indispensable to North Korea's rapidly developing weapons programme. Pictured from left to right behind dictator Kim: Ri Pyong Chol, Kim Jong Sik and Jang Chang Ha

The trio, often seen with Kim in photographs and on TV, are of great interest to Western security and intelligence agencies since they are the top people in the secretive country's rapidly accelerating missile programme.

These men are former air force general Ri Pyong Chol, veteran rocket scientist Kim Jong Sik, and head of weapons development Jang Chang Ha.

Unlike most North Korean officials, two of these men have flown with Kim in his private plane Goshawk-1, named after North Korea's national bird, state TV has shown.

Along with Kim Rak-gyom, the trio is said to be indispensable to North Korea's rapidly developing weapons programme. 

Kim Jong Sik and Jang are not from elite families, unlike many other senior figures in North Korea's ruling class, North Korean leadership experts say. 

They claim Ri, a former air force commander, has been to one of the better-regarded schools in North Korea, but he and the other two were hand-picked by Kim Jong Un.

The rocket scientist in the trio is Kim Jong Sik, who started his career as a civilian aeronautics technician.

North Korean military experts claim Ri (right, celebrating a missile launch with Kim), a former air force commander, has been to one of the better-regarded schools in North Korea

North Korean military experts claim Ri (right, celebrating a missile launch with Kim), a former air force commander, has been to one of the better-regarded schools in North Korea

He now wears the uniform of a military general at the Munitions Industry Department, according to experts and the South Korean government.

Of the three men, the least is known about Jang Chang Ha, president of the Academy of the National Defence Science, previously called the Second Academy of Natural Sciences.

The body is in charge of the secretive country's research and development of its advanced weapons systems, 'including missiles and probably nuclear weapons', the US Treasury said in 2010 in its decision to blacklist the group.

The organisation obtains technology, equipment, and information from overseas for use in weapons programmes, the Treasury said. Jang was added to the Treasury blacklist in December 2016.

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