Washington, May 2 (efe-epa).- United States President Donald Trump on Saturday said he was glad to see that Kim Jong-un was back after the North Korean leader appeared in public for the first time in three weeks.
“I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
The president wrote the message as he retweeted Kim’s photos from a ribbon-cutting ceremony at a fertilizer plant in Sunchon, a city in the east-central part of the country. The state media published the photos on Saturday, a day after the event took place.
Kim was rumored to be sick or dead before his public appearance at the event in which he appeared to be healthy and moving without any help.
It came after days of speculations about Kim’s health with some media reports even suggesting that the reclusive country would now be ruled North Korean leader’s sister Kim Yo-jon, the vice president of the central committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea. She accompanied Kim to the event on Friday.
The rumors flew thick and fast after Kim missed some of the key events, including the all-important celebration of his grandfather’s birthday on Apr.15.
On Apr.11, he had attended a politburo meeting of the party, according to state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
North Korean détente has been the highlight of Trump’s foreign policy mandate. However, he has largely remained silent in recent days about Kim’s health rumors. He even declined to say earlier whether he knew he was alive.
Given the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic and the traditional secretiveness of the North Korean government, Kim’s disappearance was accompanied by anonymously sourced stories in foreign media suggesting that he was gravely ill.
Although North Korea has officially not reported any cases of COVID-19, the KCNA images on Saturday showed workers at the Sunchon plant wearing masks during the event.
Daily NK, a Seoul-based online publication that boasts of having an extensive network of informants in the North, said that Kim had been taken to Hyangsan, northeast of Pyongyang, to undergo heart surgery.
Just Thursday, Taiwan’s intelligence chief had affirmed that Kim Jong-un had been unwell.
The South Korean government, however, had repeatedly expressed skepticism about those accounts and said that Kim’s absence was more likely due to a decision by Pyongyang to reduce the scale of public events in the context of containing the coronavirus.
On Saturday, Seoul said in a statement that baseless information regarding Kim had created confusion and stressed on the need for “carefully analyzing” information related to North Korea in the future.
This is not the first time that the health of Kim Jong-un – who has gained a lot of weight over the years and bears a family history of coronary problems – has taken a long break from public appearances.
This was the third time this year that North Korea state media failed to report any public event of the leader for more than 10 days. EFE-EPA