North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervises a “strike drill” for multiple launchers and tactical guided weapon into the East Sea on May 4, 2019
KCNA | Reuters
U.S. intelligence indicates that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un recently had cardiovascular surgery, NBC News reported, citing American officials.
Some intelligence officials said the intelligence suggest that Kim could be incapacitated, NBC added.
The development came on the heels of the South Korean currency, the won, taking a hit following an unconfirmed report that Kim was seriously ill. Kim has been out of public view for several days, according to officials cited by NBC.
The news also seemed to contradict what South Korea’s presidential office had told NBC News.
“We confirm that Chairman Kim Jong Un is currently touring provincial areas with his close aides and we do not detect evidences to support speculation about his ill health,” South Korea’s presidential office told NBC News in a statement.
“Even North Korea’s Worker’s Party, military or cabinet aren’t showing any special movements such as emergency decree. We believe that Chairman Kim is active as normal as he has been,” the office said.
Robert O’Brien, President Donald Trump’s national security advisor, said in a Fox News interview on Tuesday that the United States is monitoring Kim’s status.
“We’re monitoring these reports very closely,” he said. “As you know, North Korea is a very closed society.”
The White House and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Speculation about Kim’s health first arose following his absence from the anniversary of the birthday of its founding father and Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, on April 15.
On April 12, North Korean state media reported that Kim Jong Un had visited an airbase and observed drills by fighter jets and attack aircraft.
Under Kim, the reclusive state has conducted its most powerful nuclear test, launched its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missile and threatened to send missiles into the waters near Guam.
Since 2011, Kim has launched more than 100 missiles and conducted four nuclear weapons tests, which is more than what his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather, Kim Il Sung, launched over a period of 27 years.
Kim is believed to be about 36 years old. He is known to be overweight and has been photographed smoking cigarettes.
This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.