Kim Jong Un has made his first public appearance in weeks, according to North Korean state-run media.
The development was first reported by Reuters and AFP, citing state news agency KCNA on Friday evening.
Kim, 36, attended the completion of a fertilizer plant north of the capital, Pyongyang, which is the first report of his public activity since April 11, the report said.
The report could not be independently verified, and KCNA or other news outlets didn’t publish any photos of the despot attending the event.
Over the past month, there has been frequent speculation about his health after he missed the April 15 commemorative event for his grandfather, North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung. Kim had attended every one of those annual celebrations since he took power in 2011.
Over the weekend, reports about Kim’s demise were published in several Asian news outlets. South Korean officials denied the claims, saying that he is “alive and well,” and he’s still in control of the communist country.
However, the speculation has triggered concern that there could be a possible power vacuum at the top of the regime’s leadership, exacerbated by the fact that North Korea is known to possess weapons of mass destruction.
Earlier in the week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States has not seen any reports about Kim’s whereabouts.
“We haven’t seen him. We don’t have any information to report today, we’re watching it closely,” Pompeo said on Wednesday, according to a State Department transcript.
The secretary said the White House is monitoring the situation more intensively in North Korea, noting that the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, a coronavirus that emerged in neighboring China, will pose a problem for the country despite it not having reported any cases of the disease.
“There is a real risk that there will be a famine, a food shortage, inside of North Korea too,” he added. “We’re watching each of those things closely, as they have a real impact on our mission set, which is to ultimately denuclearize North Korea.”
The United States will pursue the mission of denuclearization in North Korea regardless of who is in charge.
“I don’t have anything to add to the status of Chairman Kim,” Pompeo told Fox News. He added, “We did have the opportunity to interact with a number of North Korean officials,” including Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong and others.