US officials “haven’t seen” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently and are watching reports about his health “closely”, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said.
He also expressed concern that the hermit state could be hit either by the coronavirus outbreak or a famine.
Mr Kim, , last appeared in state media on (April, triggering speculation that he was seriously ill.
But officials in South Korea later said such reports were not true.
There have also been suggestions that North Korea’s “supreme leader” may be staying at the sea resort of Wonsan to protect himself from possible exposure to coronavirus.
The secretive state shut its borders in late January due to the pandemic.
What did Mike Pompeo say?
Asked on Wednesday by Fox News to comment on the recent reports on Mr Kim’s health, Mr Pompeo said: “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, “he added.
“We’re watching each of those things closely, as they have a real impact on our mission set, which to ultimately denuclearise North Korea, “the secretary of state said.
s, a devastating famine is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of North Koreans.
An anonymous source told the Daily NK that they understood he had been struggling with cardiovascular problems since last August “but it worsened after repeated visits to Mount Paektu”.
This led to a chain of reporting by international media on a single-sourced story.
News agencies then began to run with that claim, and it was all they had until some reports emerged that intelligence agencies in South Korea and the US were monitoring the claim.
But then came a more sensational headline in US media that the North Korean leader was in a critical condition after heart surgery.
However, a statement from the South Korean government, and sources at Chinese intelligence – speaking to the Reuters news agency – said this was not true.
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