SEOUL: South Korean and Chinese officials on Tuesday cast doubt on reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is ill after media outlets said he had undergone a cardiovascular procedure and was in “grave danger”, while US officials said they were closely monitoring the situation.
Daily NK, a Seoul-based speciality website, reported late on Monday, citing one unnamed source in North Korea, that Kim was recovering after undergoing the procedure on April 12. The North Korean leader is believed to be about 36.
Two South Korean government officials rejected an earlier CNN report citing an unnamed US official saying the United States was “monitoring intelligence” that Kim was in grave danger after surgery but they did not elaborate on whether Kim had undergone surgery. South Korea’s presidential Blue House said there were no unusual signs coming from North Korea.
Bloomberg News separately quoted an unnamed US official as saying the White House was told that Kim had taken a turn for the worse after the surgery.
“We’re monitoring these reports very closely,” US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, told Fox News in an interview on Tuesday.
Asked about how any political succession would work in North Korea, O’Brien said, “The basic assumption would be maybe it would be someone in the family. But, again, it’s too early to talk about that because we just don’t know what condition Chairman Kim is in and we’ll have to see how it plays out.”
Kim is a third-generation hereditary leader who rules nuclear-armed North Korea with an iron fist, holding the titles of head of state and commander in chief of the military since late 2011.
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