United States President Donald Trump earlier this week threw more cold water on news reports suggesting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was gravely ill, calling it “fake” news.
“I think the report was incorrect,” Trump said at a White House briefing, adding that he heard the reporting was based on “old documents”.
“We have a good relationship with North Korea, I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un, and I hope he’s okay. And I think it was a fake report,” Trump added.
The president was evasive when asked by a reporter when the last time was that he made contact with Kim.
“I don’t want to say. I won’t say that. We have a good relationship with North Korea, as good as you can have,” he said.
Daily NK, a Seoul-based website, reported late on Monday that Kim, believed to be 36, was recovering after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure on April 12.
It cited one unnamed source in North Korea.
Two South Korean government officials rejected a subsequent CNN report citing an unnamed US official saying the US was “monitoring intelligence” that Kim was in grave danger after heart surgery.
Kim is a third-generation hereditary leader, coming to power after his father, Kim Jong Il, died in 2011 from a heart attack.
In recent years, Kim launched a diplomatic offensive to promote both himself as a world leader, holding three meetings with Trump, four with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, and five with China’s President Xi Jinping.
He was the first North Korean leader to cross the border into South Korea to meet Moon in 2018. Both Korea’s are technically still at war, as the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.
Kim has sought to have international sanctions against his country eased, but has refused to dismantle his nuclear weapons programme, a steadfast demand by the US.