Kim Jong Un Just Trying To Avoid Coronavirus- U.S. Intelligence

Kim Jong Un may have missed a key holiday on April 15 because of concerns over the coronavirus, not because he is ill, South Korea’s minister for North Korean affairs said on Tuesday.

North Korean leader Kim’s absence from public ceremonies on the birth anniversary of his grandfather and founder of the country, Kim Il Sung, was unprecedented, and he has not been seen in public since. That has led to days of speculation over his health.

South Korean officials emphasize they have detected no unusual movements in North Korea and have cautioned against reports that Kim may be ill.

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An authoritative source familiar with U.S. intelligence reporting said on Monday it was entirely possible Kim had disappeared from public view to avoid exposure to COVID-19 and the sighting of his presidential train in the coastal resort area of Wonsan did suggest he may be there or have been there recently.

But the source said that since there was no authoritative backing for such a conclusion, U.S. agencies were also still considering the possibility Kim might be ill, even seriously.

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38 North, a Washington-based North Korea monitoring project, said on Saturday that satellite images from last week showed a special train that was probably Kim’s at Wonsan, lending weight to reports he had been spending time in the resort area.

While North Korean state media have not reported on Kim Jong Un’s whereabouts since he presided over a meeting on April 11, they have carried near-daily reports of him sending letters and diplomatic messages suggests he is still carrying out his duties as leader.

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That suggests that he is still carrying out his duties, Unification minister Kim said, although some experts say they are not necessarily conclusive.

“I agree with the South Korean government’s assessment that there is no reason to think Kim Jong Un is not performing his duties,” said Rachel Minyoung Lee, a former North Korea open-source intelligence analyst for the U.S. government. “That said, I would not read too much into letters signed by Kim Jong Un. I would guess that most of them are not written by him anyway.”

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