South Korea’s top security brass on Thursday “confirmed” that there has been no unusual activity in North Korea that would indicate that dictator Kim Jong Un was on death’s door.
The confirmation followed speculation that leader Kim may be seriously ill, according to Cheong Wa Dae — also known as the Blue House — the complex that houses the South’s federal government in Seoul, the country’s Yonhap news agency reported.
The military and security leaders investigated what’s going on in the secretive communist country during their weekly session of the National Security Council standing committee.
They then “confirmed no unusual situations currently inside North Korea,” Cheong Wa Dae said in a statement.
Kim, 36, has been out of sight publicly since April 12, and was even a no-show at the key annual ceremony to commemorate his late grandfather Kim Il-sung, who founded the North, on April 15.
His unusual absence led to some US news reports that he underwent heart surgery.
But Cheong Wa Dae officials said it appeared to be business as usual in the hermit Kingdom while Kim was staying in a “local region,” and not Pyongyang, the capital.
A day earlier, the vice-chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said he had no reason to believe that Kim — an overweight heavy smoker who reportedly suffers from a range of health problems — was not still “in full control” of the country.
Gen. John Hyten said military intelligence didn’t confirm or deny reports that Kim was in poor health following a recent surgical procedure.
“In the intel, I don’t have anything to confirm or deny anything along those lines, so I assume that Kim Jong Un is still in full control of the Korean nuclear force and the Korean military forces,” Hyten told reporters at the Pentagon.
“I have no reason not to assume that,” he said, comments that came the same day that the North said that Kim had sent a letter to Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad to thank him for a recent note wishing him well.
Authorities have also warned that Kim’s death could trigger a huge humanitarian crisis, including mass starvation and an exodus of refugees to neighboring China.
The US reportedly has a contingency plan in place that would leave much of the work to China, an ally of the dictatorship
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