The US is monitoring intelligence that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, is in grave danger after a surgery, according to a US official with direct knowledge.
Kim recently missed the celebration of his grandfather’s birthday on April 15, which raised speculation about his well-being. He had been seen four days before that at a government meeting. Only senior officials were said to have been part of the delegation that came for “the Day of the Sun” to view the embalmed body of Kim Il Sung at Pyongyang’s Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, per Reuters. There was also no state media report about the country’s alleged cruise missile tests on Tuesday, which there normally would be, with Kim in attendance. The last time the 36-year-old was seen in public was last Saturday, when he attended a Workers’ Party politburo meeting.
Those who’ve watched his behavior say it would be unlike him to skip the birthday tribute: Yonhap notes Kim hasn’t skipped the holiday visit to the mausoleum since he took power in 2011, per Fox News. “He has been going there on the birthdays of his grandfather and father to flaunt his royalty to them and sacred bloodline,” a senior fellow at South Korea’s Sejong Institute tells Reuters. While some wonder if he’s sick or has another health issue, some observers tell Fox he may be trying to distance himself from his relatives to establish his own legacy. Still others suggest he may have paid tribute beforehand to shelter himself from coronavirus exposure. “This is a leader whose … trademark [is] hugging his people a lot,” an international relations professor at Seoul’s Yonsei University tells CNN. “I think we have to include the possibility that this is related to their process to make sure he stays safe.”
South Korean news website the Daily NK claimed earlier on Monday night that Kim was ‘mostly-recovered’ from
heart surgery. The website obtained the story from a single anonymous informant based in North Korea, and has been unable to obtain further details on Kim’s condition, Bloomberg reported.
CNN has reached out to the CIA, National Security Counsel and the State Department for comment. CNN has also sought comment from the South Koreans.
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