Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded to reports about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s reported demise, which has not been confirmed by Pyongyang or any other government, saying there has been no sign of him.
The United States has not seen Kim, 36, and is actively monitoring reports about his health after several news outlets, citing anonymous sources, claimed that he was dead or in a vegetative state. However, South Korean officials have asserted that Kim has not died and is in full control.
But the reports have raised concerns about instability in the isolated communist country, which is known to possess weapons of mass destruction, and the prospect of a possible successor to Kim.
“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.”
Regardless of who is in power, Pompeo said the United States will pursue the mission of denuclearization in North Korea.
“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.
Speculation about his health has ramped up after he missed the birthday celebration for his grandfather, the North Korean regime’s founder, Kim Il Sung.
South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul noted: “It is true that he had never missed the anniversary for Kim Il Sung’s birthday since he took power, but many anniversary events including celebrations and a banquet had been cancelled because of coronavirus concerns,” reported Reuters.
And Chung-in Moon, a foreign policy adviser to South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, told Fox News on Sunday that “our government position is firm. Kim Jong Un is alive and well.”