SEOUL, April 27 (UPI) — U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that he has information about Kim Jong Un’s condition amid swirling speculation about the North Korean leader’s health but did not offer any details.
“Yes, I do have a very good idea, but I can’t talk about it now,” Trump said during a Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the White House. “I just wish him well. I’ve had a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un.”
Trump said Kim’s whereabouts and health would soon be widely known.
“I hope he’s fine,” he said. “I do know how he’s doing, relatively speaking. We will see. You’ll probably be hearing in the not-too-distant future.”
However, Trump later added, “Nobody knows where he is.”
The president’s comments come after several days of rumors and media reports claiming that Kim, who has not made a public appearance in over two weeks, is gravely ill or even already dead.
Speculation has been rife about the North Korean leader’s health since he did not attend April 15 ceremonies observing the birth anniversary of founder Kim Il Sung for the first time since he fully assumed power in 2012.
Kim was also absent from a celebration of the founding of North Korea’s armed forces on Saturday.
Last week, a report by the Daily NK, a Seoul-based website that receives information from sources inside North Korea, claimed that Kim was receiving treatment at a hospital after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure.
Citing an unnamed source, the article said Kim underwent the procedure on April 12 at the Hyangsan Clinic, a private hospital for the Kim family in North Pyongyan Province, as a result of “excessive smoking, obesity and overwork.”
CNN reported that the leader was in “grave danger” following surgery, citing an anonymous U.S. official. President Trump later said he believed the report was “incorrect.”
Further rumors followed, including a social media posting by the vice director of a Hong Kong satellite television network claiming that Kim was already dead, and a report from Japanese magazine Shukan Gendai that Kim was in a vegetative state after heart surgery.
South Korean newspaper JoongAng Daily reported Monday that Kim was self-quarantining because one of his personal bodyguards contracted COVID-19, citing an unnamed source in China. Another newspaper, Dong-a Ilbo, ran an article by a high-ranking North Korean defector, Ri Jong Ho, speculating that Kim may have been injured during missile tests on April 14.
South Korean officials, however, have said that there are no indications that Kim Jong Un is in dire health, with presidential adviser Moon Chung-in telling CNN on Monday that Kim is “alive and well” and has been staying in the coastal resort area of Wonsan since April 13.
A report from 38 North, a website that analyzes developments in North Korea, used satellite data to conclude that a train likely belonging to Kim Jong Un has been parked at his Wonsan resort since at least April 21.
“The train’s presence does not prove the whereabouts of the North Korean leader or indicate anything about his health, but it does lend weight to reports that Kim is staying at an elite area on the country’s eastern coast,” the report said.
North Korean state run-media has not addressed any of the speculation surrounding Kim and has reported on correspondence he has had over the past week with other heads of state, including the presidents of Syria and Cuba.
The most recent report citing Kim came Monday, when state-run Korean Central News Agency said that the leader sent “a message of greeting” to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Kim’s last officially reported public appearance came in an April 12 photo showing him inspecting a group of fighter jets at an airfield in the western part of the country. He also attended an April 11 meeting of the ruling party’s political bureau, according to KCNA, during which he called for stricter measures to contain the coronavirus in North Korea.