United States officials “haven’t seen” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday, reported Reuters. He added that the country was “closely” monitoring reports about his health.
Speculations about Kim’s well-being were raised after he missed the celebration of his grandfather’s birthday on April 15. On April 21, Daily NK, an online newspaper based in South Korea that focuses on North Korea, said that Kim had undergone a heart surgery at Hyangsan Hospital due to “a number of factors, including his obesity, prolific smoking habits, and overwork”. On April 26, an advisor to South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the North Korean leader is “alive and well”.
“We haven’t seen him,” Pompeo told Fox News after he was asked about reports on Kim’s health. “We don’t have any information to report today, we’re watching it closely.” On Monday, US President Donald Trump said he had a “very good idea” about Kim’s condition, but added that “I can’t talk about it”. “I just wish him well,” he added.
Pompeo said there was “a real risk” of a famine in North Korea amid the coronavirus outbreak. However, he did not elaborate on the risk. A North Korean economic delegation was supposed to visit Beijing this week to discuss food supplies and trade-related matters, according to Reuters. North Korea is prone to food shortages. In the 1990s, as many as 1.1 million people died during the famines, according to South Korean estimates.
Pompeo said the US was monitoring the situation in North Korea. “We’re watching each of those things closely, as they have a real impact on our mission set, which to ultimately denuclearise North Korea,” the secretary of state said. US President Donald Trump has met Kim thrice since 2018. But the denuclearisation talks have been stalled.
Getting inputs from North Korea has always been very difficult as the nuclear-armed country tightly controls any information surrounding its leader. Kim’s absence from state media had triggered speculations about his health earlier too. In 2014, he was not in the public eye for nearly six weeks. Days later, South Korea’s spy agency said he had a cyst removed from his ankle.