US ‘hasn’t seen’ North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently, Pompeo says

US 'hasn't seen' North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently, Pompeo says
Kim Jong-un (centre) was last seen inspecting North Korea's Air Force units on 12 April. Source: EPA
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Daily US Times: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said US officials “haven’t seen” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently. He also said the US is watching reports about his health “closely”.

Mr Pompeo also expressed concern that the hermit state could be hit either famine or by the coronavirus outbreak.

The 36-year-old North Korean leader last appeared in state media on 12 April, that triggered speculation that he was seriously ill, though South Korean officials later said such reports were not true.

There are also suggestions that Kim is currently staying at the sea resort of Wonsan to protect himself from possible exposure to coronavirus.

The country shut its borders in late January due to the pandemic.

What did Mike Pompeo say?

Being asked to comment on the recent reports on Mr Kim’s health, Mr Pompeo said: “We haven’t seen him. We don’t have any information to report today, we’re watching it closely.”

He said: “There is a real risk that there will be a famine, a food shortage, inside of North Korea too.”

Secretary of state said they are watching each of those things closely, as they have a real impact on our mission set, which to ultimately denuclearise North Korea.

A devastating famine in the 1990’s is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of North Koreans.

President Donald Trump said on Monday he had a “very good idea” about Mr Kim’s condition, but added that “I can’t talk about it”.

Trump ”just wish him well”.

When did speculation start?

The speculations began when Kim failed to appear for the celebration of his grandfather’s birthday on 15 April, which is one of the biggest events of the year.

The ‘supreme leader’ never missed this event and it seemed very unlikely that he would simply choose not to attend.

Inevitably, his absence prompted rumour and speculation, none of which is easy to substantiate.

He last appeared in state media on 12 April “inspecting a pursuit assault plane group” in a handout that is undated. As ever, the images portrayed him as relaxed and at ease.

An anonymous source told the Daily NK, the website focuses on North Korean affairs closely, that they understood he had been struggling with cardiovascular problems since last August “but it worsened after repeated visits to Mount Paektu”.

This led to a chain of reporting by international media on a single-sourced story.

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