North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un stayed out of public sight Saturday, as mystery over his whereabouts deepened.
He was conspicuously absent on Saturday at the 88th anniversary of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army (KPRA).
His absence further fuelled speculations about his health, with unconfirmed reports that he was vegetating after a cardiac operation that went wrong.
Some reports even pronounced him dead.
There was no word from the reclusive nation’s tightly controlled media.
The last time the country’s media reported anything about Kim was on 11 April, when he presided over a meeting.
Since then the media have carried zero report the 36-year-old leader.
Pyongyang’s propaganda outlets on Saturday instead hyped the 88th anniversary of the birth of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army (KPRA).
The official Korean Central News Agency detailed the history of the KPRA.
It began with the formation of the anti-Japanese people’s guerrilla army by Kim Il-sung, late grandfather of the current leader.
Korea was under Japan’s brutal colonial rule at that time.
In an editorial, the Rodong Sinmun, the organ of the North’s ruling party, stressed Kim Jong-un’s call for bolstering the military power.
The paper also urged the further strengthening of the entire army’s support for his leadership.
A South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff officer said later in the day no unusual signs regarding the anniversary have been detected in North Korea.
Meanwhile, Reuters said China has dispatched a team of medical doctors and officials to North Korea “to advise on” Kim. It quoted three unnamed people familiar with the situation.
The delegation, led by a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department, left Beijing for North Korea on Thursday, it added.
Rueters also reported the spotting of a special train possibly belonging to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a resort town in the country.
The train was spotted in a satellite image reviewed by a Washington-based North Korea monitoring project.
The monitoring project, 38 North, said in its report on Saturday that the train was parked at the “leadership station” in Wonsan on April 21 and April 23. The station is reserved for the use of the Kim family, it said.
Though the group said it was probably Kim Jong Un’s train, Reuters has not been able to confirm that independently, or whether he was in Wonsan.
“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.
Speculation about Kim’s health first arose due to his absence from the anniversary of the birthday of North Korea’s founding father and Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, on April 15.
A third-generation hereditary leader who came to power after his father’s death in 2011, Kim Jong Un has no clear successor in a nuclear-armed country, which could present major international risk.
Daily NK, a Seoul-based website that reports on North Korea, cited one unnamed source in North Korea on Monday as saying that Kim had undergone medical treatment in the resort county of Hyangsan north of the capital Pyongyang.
It said that Kim was recovering after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure on April 12.
Since then, multiple South Korean media reports have cited unnamed sources this week saying that Kim might be staying in the Wonsan area.
On Friday, local news agency Newsis cited South Korean intelligence sources as reporting that a special train for Kim’s use had been seen in Wonsan, while Kim’s private plane remained in Pyongyang.
Newsis reported Kim may be sheltering from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Kim, believed to be 36, has disappeared from coverage in North Korean state media before.
In 2014, he vanished for more than a month and North Korean state TV later showed him walking with a limp.
Speculation about his health has been fanned by his heavy smoking, apparent weight gain since taking power and family history of cardiovascular problems