North Korea news: Kim Jong Un’s train ‘spotted in resort town’ amid death rumours – read details
38 North -- a Washington-based North Korea monitoring website – reported the train, possibly belonging to Kim Jong Un, was parked at the "leadership station" in Wonsan on April 21 and April 23. But this does not prove his whereabouts or indicate anything about his health.
Amid escalating rumours that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is dead or on his death bed after a botched heart surgery, a special train possibly belonging to the dictator has been spotted this week at a resort town in the country, according to satellite images reviewed by a Washington-based North Korea monitoring website.
According to a 38 North website report on Saturday, the train was parked at the "leadership station" in Wonsan on April 21 and April 23. The station is reserved for the use of the Kim family, it said.
This comes as social media is abuzz with speculations over Kim's alleged death after a senior official at a Beijing-backed satellite TV channel made the claim on Weibo.
Vice director of Hong Kong Satellite Television Shijian Xingzou reportedly stated on her Weibo account, citing top level sources, that the North Korean dictator had died. She is a niece of a Chinese Foreign Minister and has 15 million followers on Weibo.
OK, more rumors on KJU's death citing a Hong Kong source. That "source" is an unverified Weibo post by Vice Director of HKSTV Hong Kong Satellite Television Qing Feng 秦枫, niece of former Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing 李肇星; a thread: pic.twitter.com/Z93m1k8ABR— Min Chao Choy (@minchaochoy) April 25, 2020
However, these claims have not been corroborated by Korea Central News Agency -- the state news agency of North Korea, or any other state media. North Korea remains tight-lipped about the health or whereabouts of its leader, who was last seen in public two weeks ago.
According to 38 North, the train’s presence does not prove the whereabouts of the North Korean leader or indicate anything about his health, but it does lend weight to reports that Kim is staying at an elite area on the country’s eastern coast.
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 state media last reported on Kim's whereabouts when he presided over a meeting on April 11.
China has dispatched a team to North Korea including medical experts to advise on Kim Jong Un, according to three people familiar with the situation.
Meanwhile, Japanese weekly magazine Shukan Gendai has claimed that the North Korean leader is in a "vegetative state" after a heart surgery earlier this month.
A third-generation hereditary leader who came to power after his father's death in 2011, Kim has no clear successor in a nuclear-armed country, which could present major international risk.
On Thursday, US President Donald Trump downplayed reports that Kim was ill. "I think the report was incorrect," Trump told reporters, but he declined to say if he had been in touch with North Korean officials.
Trump has met Kim three times in an attempt to persuade him to give up a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States as well as its Asian neighbours. While talks have stalled, Trump has continued to hail Kim as a friend.
REPORTS AND CONTROLS
Reporting from inside North Korea is notoriously difficult because of tight controls on information. A Trump administration official said continuing days of North Korean media silence on Kim's whereabouts had heightened concerns about his condition, and that information remained scant from a country US intelligence has long regarded as a "black box."
The US State Department did not immediately respond to questions about the situation on Saturday.
Daily NK, a website that reports on North Korea, cited one unnamed source in North Korea on Monday as saying that Kim had undergone medical treatment in the resort county of Hyangsan north of the capital Pyongyang. It said that Kim was recovering after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure on April 12.
Since then, multiple South Korean media reports have cited unnamed sources this week saying that Kim might be staying in the Wonsan area.
On Friday, local news agency Newsis cited South Korean intelligence sources as reporting that a special train for Kim's use had been seen in Wonsan, while Kim's private plane remained in Pyongyang. Newsis reported Kim may be sheltering from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Speculation about Kim's health has been fanned by his heavy smoking, apparent weight gain since taking power and family history of cardiovascular problems.
KIM'S SISTER TO TAKE OVER IF THE RULER DIES?
Professor Koh Yu-hwan at Dongguk University in South Korea said that Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong would fulfil the roles of the supreme leader if the hermit regime's leader was incapacitated. “Yo Jong has already been upheld high by military-party power elites (as a potential successor),” Koh said.
“This is a highly controlled society without any tangible social movements or civic groups and a power vacuum would be filled up fast within the ruling class. But military or intelligence agency elites could take advantage of such an incident to try to seize power.”
Accoding to reports, Kim Yo Jong is now seen as the “alter ego” of the North Korean dictator and thought to be the most important figure in the tyrannical regime after her brother. She was born in September 1987 and is the daughter of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il
She is married to Choe Song -- the son of top North Korean military official and politician Choe Ryong-hae -- and has at least one child born in May 2015. She has filled in for her brother when he was sick and has played a high-level supporting role to him.