North Korea’s state media released photos on Saturday of Kim Jong Un’s first public appearance in nearly three weeks.
The Korean Central News Agency had said on Friday that Kim appeared alongside his sister, Kim Jo Jong, and other top officials at a ceremony for the completed construction of a Suncheon fertilizer factory, although photos were not initially provided.
A day later, the KCNA did release nearly two dozen photos from the event, most featuring a smiling Kim.
On his way to Camp David late Friday, President Trump told reporters, “I’d rather not comment on it yet — Kim Jong Un. We’ll have something to say about it at the appropriate time.”
On both Monday and Thursday, Trump told reporters he had “a very good idea” about Kim Jong Un and “understands what’s going on” but said he “can’t talk about it right now.”
Kim’s appearance marks the first time he attended a public event in 20 days. His last appearance was on April 11 at a government meeting to discuss coronavirus efforts.
When Kim was noticeably absent days later for the April 15 anniversary celebration for Kim Il Sung – Kim’s grandfather and state founder – speculation of his health and rumors of his alleged death soon followed.
South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo said last week that North Korea has suddenly increased its military activity.
Jeong said North Korea “has been heightening military tensions through an unusual increase in the inspection activities for its combat readiness posture, mostly of its artillery, and in its air force planes’ flight operations.”
South Korean officials also downplayed rumors of Kim’s allegedly deteriorating health or death, however.
Kang Min Seok, a spokesman for President Moon Jae, said, “There is nothing we can confirm with regard to Chairman Kim’s alleged health problem.” Another South Korean official called the rumors “simply untrue.”
Vice Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten also told reporters last that the U.S. had seen no intelligence reports to support the rumors about Kim.
“I assume Kim Jong Un is still in full control of the Korean nuclear force and the Korean military forces,” Hyten said.
The KCNA has also recently claimed Kim sent greetings to the leaders of Syria, Cuba and South Africa, and messages of thanks to his country’s workers.