North Korean media silent on Kim Jong Un's whereabouts as speculation on health rages

Kim Jong Un was absent from the anniversary of the birthday of North Korean's founding father Kim Il Sung. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL (REUTERS) - North Korean state media made no mention on Wednesday (April 22) of new appearances by leader Kim Jong Un, a day after intense international speculation over his health was sparked by his absence from a major celebration last week.

South Korean and Chinese officials and sources familiar with US intelligence have cast doubt on reports that Kim is gravely ill after a cardiovascular procedure, while the White House said it was closely monitoring the matter.

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.

North Korea's official KCNA news agency and the ruling party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, have given no indication of his whereabouts in routine dispatches since then, but said he had sent birthday gifts to prominent citizens.

On Wednesday, the main headlines from KCNA included pieces on sports equipment, mulberry picking, and a meeting in Bangladesh to study North Korea's "juche" or self-reliance ideology.

Rodong Sinmun, meanwhile, carried articles on a self-sufficient economy, and anti-coronavirus measures.

On Tuesday, South Korea's presidential Blue House said there were no unusual signs from North Korea, while US President Donald Trump said the reports of Kim's ill health had not been confirmed and he did not give them much credence.

North Korea experts have cautioned that hard facts about Kim's condition are elusive, but said his unprecedented absence from major celebrations for his grandfather's birthday last week signals that something may have gone awry.

Reporting from inside North Korea is notoriously difficult, especially on matters concerning its leadership, given tight controls on information. There have been past false reports regarding its leaders in the past.

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