South Korea has downplayed reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is gravely ill following a surgery.
The office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Tuesday there was “nothing to confirm” regarding reports that the 36-year-old was in poor health.
South Korea’s Daily NK website had reported that Kim was receiving treatment after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure earlier this month, Reuters said.
Citing a U.S. official with “direct knowledge” of Kim’s situation, CNN reported that Kim was in “grave danger” after a surgery. NBC News then claimed he was “brain dead” though the tweet containing the claim was later deleted “out of an abundance of caution.”
But a spokesman for Seoul’s presidential office said Tuesday that “there has been nothing to confirm regarding North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s health anomalies recently reported by some media, and so far no unusual activities have been identified inside North Korea,” according to UPI.
Without elaborating on whether or not Kim has undergone surgical procedure, two South Korean government sources cast doubt on the reports he is gravely ill and the presidential Blue House said there are no unusual signs coming from the North.
An official at the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department, which deals with North Korea, told Reuters the source did not believe Kim was critically ill. China is North Korea’s only major ally.
Kim is the unquestioned leader of North Korea and of its nuclear arsenal. He has no clear successor and any instability in the country could be a major international risk, Reuters reports.
Kim recently missed the birthday celebration of his late grandfather and state founder, Kim Il Sung, on April 15, prompting speculation about his health. Both Kim’s grandfather and father died after suffering from heart attacks.
With files from Chris York