Kim Jong-un, 36, was absent from public ceremonies on the birth anniversary of his grandfather and founder of the country, Kim Il-sung. His unprecedented disappearance led to days of speculation in the international community over his health, whether he had died, and whether the nuclear-capable state was headed toward instability. North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho believes Pyongyang will announce that Kim is dead as soon as this weekend.
Ji Seong-ho told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency: “I’ve wondered how long he could have endured after cardiovascular surgery. I’ve been informed that Kim died last weekend.
“It is not 100 percent certain, but I can say the possibility is 99 percent.
“North Korea is believed to be grappling with a complicated succession issue.”
Thae Yong-ho, a former North Korean diplomat, has also said the leader “can’t stand himself or walk properly”.
He noted the death of Kim Jong-il was kept a secret for two days and his Foreign Minister wasn’t informed until an hour before the official statement.
Thae told CNN: “Kim Jong-un is not only the leader of North Korea, but he is the grandson of Kim Il-sung…to North Korean eyes it is really abnormal.
“I’m not quite sure whether he really had some surgery or whatever, but one thing is clear… he cannot stand up by himself or walk properly.”
It comes as a US official told the news site the North Korean leader is “in grave danger after a surgery”.
Thae added: “The only people who can confirm his real condition might be Kim Jong-un’s wife or his sister, or his close aides.
“Those rumours of where he is now, (or) whether he has any surgery, I don’t think that is really based on the facts.”
The United States has caught no sight of Kim and is watching reports about his health, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday, adding there was a real risk of famine in the country amid the coronavirus outbreak.
North Korean media has not reported on Kim’s whereabouts since he presided over a meeting on April 11, provoking speculation about his health and raising concerns about instability in the nuclear-armed country that could affect other North Asian countries and the United States.
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Mr Pompeo told Fox News: “We haven’t seen him. We don’t have any information to report today, we’re watching it closely.
“There is a real risk that there will be a famine, a food shortage, inside of North Korea too.
“We’re watching each of those things closely, as they have a real impact on our mission set, which to ultimately denuclearize North Korea.”
Officials in South Korea and the United States have said Kim may be staying at North Korea’s coastal resort of Wonsan to avoid exposure to the new coronavirus, and have expressed skepticism about media reports that he had some kind of serious illness.
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