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Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of Kim Jong-un and he has not been seen since pictures reemerged on Friday, May 1, of the leader at a ceremony for a fertiliser factory in Sunchon. The pictures were released by North Korea to prove the despot was alive and well after reports he was dead following botched heart surgery. But a US official has now been forced to admit he “can’t say one way or the other” if the recent images of the Supreme leader are real.
North Korea is known to be a highly secretive nation, that operates under the cover of extreme isolation and privacy, where little is known about the goings on inside the state.
White House security adviser, Robert O’Brien, told Bloomberg: “He seems to be out and cutting ribbons on fertiliser factories.
“So, you know, our thinking is he is probably doing well.
“We call it the hermit kingdom. It’s very difficult to get information out of North Korea.
“They’re not very forthcoming with information, but they did release photos of him being alive and well and we assume that he is.”
But he said America “can’t say one way or the other” if the “open source” pictures of Kim, 36, are real.
Kim reportedly made his first public appearance for 20 days, North Korean state media said on May 1.
KCNA, North Korea’s state news agency, said Kim had attended the completion of a fertiliser plant in a region north of the capital, Pyongyang.
This was the first report of his public activity since April 11 at a Workers’ Party Politburo meeting.
According to KCNA, the 36-year-old supreme leader cut the ribbon at the opening of a fertiliser factory.
The report added people at the factory “broke into thunderous cheers of hurrah” when he appeared.
Kim was accompanied by several senior North Korean officials, including his younger sister Kim Yo Jong, KCNA said.
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Claims carried in numerous media outlets last month suggested the 36-year-old had died after botched heart surgery, or was alternatively in a vegetative state.
Speculation was fuelled after he missed the birth anniversary celebrations of state founder Kim Il-sung, his grandfather, on April 15.
On the face of it, the pictures debunk the rumours about his demise.
But speculation about their authenticity has also raised by an expert in the secretive country, who pointed out there is no way of verifying when the photographs were actually taken.
Journalist Roy Calley, author of Look With Your Eyes and Tell the World, an account of his numerous visits to the Hermit State as a tourist, said he is not convinced.
He told Express.co.uk: “Maybe I’m just being cynical but it does not look right to me.
“There is no way of telling when this picture was taken.
“They have history with this kind of thing – he went missing before, for 40 days, and when he returned he was walking with a cane because of an operation.
“The thing is he is not a fit human being whatever way you look at it.
“I don’t think he smokes any more but he clearly has got lots of health issues.
“This is just another factory in PyongYang and it’s a really odd picture to release all of a sudden.
“There is simply no way to date it and the thing is, in the normal course of events, every day there is a picture released of the Supreme Leader opening something.”
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