Chiu Kuo-cheng, Taiwan’s National Security Bureau (NSB) director-general, refuted claims Kim Jong-un was dead after media outlets across the Far East reported he had died following complications during heart surgery. But Mr Chiu admitted the crackpot despot was “sick”, however laughed and dodged the question when he was asked whether Kim, 36, is alive, according to reports.
Mr Chiu told Kuomintang (KMT) chairman Chiang Chi-chen he would not discuss the situation in the hermit state further in public because it risked compromising a source.
But he brushed off claims of a power struggle in the event of Kim’s death to replace him, saying political turbulence would only last a brief period because contingency plans were already in place.
Details remain very sketchy but over the weekend media outlets in China and Japan reported the 36-year-old dictator was dead.
Vice director of HKSTV Hong Kong Satellite Television Shijian Xingzou said a ‘very solid source’ has told her the North Korea leader was dead.
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Other sources said he was on his death bed in a vegetative state with no hope of resuscitation after botched heart surgery.
Meanwhile, Thae Yong-ho, a former North Korean diplomat, has claimed the leader “can’t stand himself or walk properly”.
Kim’s health is a state secret in insular North Korea and speculation about him or his family can invite swift retribution.
A source told Daily NK, North Korea’s silence to reports was “strange”.
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They said: “All sorts of rumours are spreading.
“But even though the government is aware of all this, there has been no centralised response to it, either in the form of lectures or otherwise. That’s really strange.”
The source said previous reports on Kim’s health sparked rapid response from authorities in the secret state.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said Kim’s whereabouts are unknown and America is watching reports about his health, warning was a real risk of famine in the country amid the coronavirus outbreak.
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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.”
State media from the hermit state last reported on Kim’s whereabouts when he presided over a meeting on April 11.
His absence from an event to mark the birthday of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, on April 15, an important anniversary in North Korea, was unprecedented.
That has led to days of speculation in the international community over his health and whether the nuclear-capable state was headed toward instability.
Officials in South Korea and the US have said Kim may be staying at North Korea’s coastal resort of Wonsan to avoid exposure to the new coronavirus, and have expressed scepticism about media reports that he had some kind of serious illness.
South Korean officials say they have not detected any “unusual movements” in North Korea.
The South Korean minister in charge of North Korean affairs said the fear of catching the coronavirus could have kept Kim away from the April 15 state ceremonies.
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