AGENCIES | CNN | Washington DC – US President Donald Trump appeared to confirm Saturday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is “alive and well.”
Trump retweeted North Korean state media photos of Kim attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory.
“I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well!” Trump wrote.
This was Kim’s first public appearance in about three weeks after global speculation over his health.
CNN has reached out to the White House for additional information about the President’s tweet and whether the White House has authenticated the photos released by North Korean state media.
A US official told CNN that the current analysis from multiple threads of intelligence is that the photos published in the last 24 hours by North Korean state media showing Kim at a fertilizer plant opening are legitimate.
On Sunday, South Korean presidential adviser Moon Chung-in told CNN that the North Korean leader was “alive and well” despite speculation about his health.
The adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Kim had been staying in the Wonsan area, on the country’s east coast, since April 13, adding: “No suspicious movements have so far been detected.”
Questions regarding Kim’s health were initially raised after he missed the celebration of his grandfather’s birthday on April 15. He had been seen four days before that at a politburo meeting, according to North Korean state media, KCNA.
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North Korea tightly controls any information surrounding its leader, who is treated almost like a deity within the country. His absences from official state media often spark speculation and rumors about his health.
North Korea has no free press and is often a black hole when it comes to the country’s leadership. Analysts are heavily reliant on scanning state media dispatches and watching propaganda videos for any semblance of a clue.
CNN previously reported that the United States was monitoring intelligence that Kim was “in grave danger after a surgery,” according to a US official. Another US official told CNN Monday that the concerns about Kim’s health are credible, but their severity was hard to assess.
The news followed initial reporting by Daily NK, an online newspaper based in South Korea that focuses on North Korea, that Kim reportedly received a cardiovascular procedure because of “excessive smoking, obesity, and overwork.”
Meanwhile, a website specializing in North Korean affairs published satellite images last Saturday that researchers said showed a train “probably belonging to Kim Jong Un” parked at a railway station serving Kim’s luxurious Wonsan compound since late April.
The North Korean leader is known for frequenting the Wonsan complex which is served by a railway station nearby. The beachfront area is where Kim spent summers as a child, though he often travels by plane or drives to Wonsan.