AP

Satellite imagery finds likely Kim train amid health rumors

Apr 27, 2020, 5:53 AM
This Wednesday, April 15, 2020, satellite image provided by Airbus Defence & Space and annotate...
This Wednesday, April 15, 2020, satellite image provided by Airbus Defence & Space and annotated by 38 North, a website specializing in North Korea studies, shows overview of Wonsan complex in Wonsan, North Korea. Recent satellite photos show a train probably belonging to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been spotted on the country’s east coast amid mounting speculation about his health. (Airbus Defence & Space and 38 North, Pleiades©CNES 2020, Distribution Airbus DS via AP)
(Airbus Defence & Space and 38 North, Pleiades©CNES 2020, Distribution Airbus DS via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A train likely belonging to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been parked at his compound on the country’s east coast since last week, satellite imagery showed, amid speculation about his health that has been caused, in part, by a long period out of the public eye.

The satellite photos released by 38 North, a website specializing in North Korea studies, don’t say anything about Kim’s potential health problems, and they echo South Korean government intelligence that Kim is staying outside of the capital, Pyongyang. Seoul has also repeatedly indicated that there have been no unusual signs that could indicate health problems for Kim.

That hasn’t stopped growing unconfirmed rumors and media reports about Kim’s health that have emerged since he missed the April 15 commemoration of the 108th birthday of his grandfather, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung.

Kim Jong Un is the third generation of his family to rule North Korea, and he hadn’t missed the April 15 event, one of the year’s most important for the North, since assuming power after his father Kim Jong Il’s death in late 2011.

Kim’s health is of crucial importance because of worries that the serious illness or death of a leader venerated with near godlike passion by millions of North Koreans could cause instability in the impoverished, nuclear-armed country.

Many experts in South Korea downplayed speculation that Kim is seriously ill. They also said North Korea won’t likely face a serious immediate turmoil even if Kim is incapacitated or dies because someone else like his influential sister Kim Yo Jong will quickly step in, though the prospect for the North’s long-term political future would be unclear.

Kim Jong Un’s train has been parked at the Leadership Railway Station servicing his Wonsan compound since at least April 21, the 38 North website said Saturday, citing an analysis of recent satellite photos of the area. The website said the approximately 250-meter (820-foot) -long train wasn’t present on April 15 but was present on both April 21 and 23.

“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,” it said.

The photos indicate the train arrived before April 21 and was still present on April 23, when it appeared to be repositioned for departure. However, there was no indication when that departure might take place, 38 North said.

North Korea exerts extremely tight control on information about its leadership, making it virtually impossible for outsiders to find out what’s going on at those senior levels. Even South Korea’s main spy agency has a mixed record on confirming developments in North Korea. When Kim Jong Il died in December 2011, for instance, few outsiders knew it until it was reported by North Korea’s state media two days later.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk to the media, said the latest rumors about Kim’s health had not changed the U.S. assessment of the information as “speculation.”

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway wouldn’t comment on Kim’s status. “The president will make any announcement about a head of state,” she said Saturday night on Fox News Channel’s “Justice with Judge Jeanine.”

Danny Russel, a former National Security Council director and assistant secretary of state for Asia who has dealt with North Korea in the past, cautioned that rumors have abounded for years about Kim, his father, Kim Jong Il, and his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, and most turned out to have been false.

“While serving in government I was on the receiving end of multiple intelligence reports about alleged accidents, illnesses and assassination attempts against North Korean leaders — only to have them reappear in public,” he said.

South Korea’s presidential office said last week that Kim appeared to be handling state affairs normally and that there had been no suspicious activities, such as an emergency readiness order issued by the North’s military or the ruling Workers’ Party. The South Korean government has since maintained its assessment that Kim’s health remains the same. Some South Korean media outlets, citing unidentified government officials, have reported that Kim was staying at Wonsan.

North Korea’s state media have been silent about the speculation on Kim’s health. On Saturday, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported that Kim had received a message of greetings from the chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation on the occasion of the first anniversary of Kim’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The message wished Kim “good health and happiness,” KCNA said.

It’s not the first time that Kim has vanished from the public eye, and past absences in state media dispatches have also triggered speculation about his health. In 2014, state media didn’t report any public activities for Kim for about six weeks, before he reappeared with a cane. South Korea’s spy agency said later that he had a cyst removed from his ankle.

___

AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

___

This story has been corrected to reflect that the first name of the Fox News Channel host is Jeanine, not Jeannine.

AP

FILE - House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., responds to reporters at the Capitol in Wash...
The Associated Press

McCarthy, Trump have ‘positive’ call despite Jan. 6 audio

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy had a positive phone call with then President Donald Trump.
5 months ago
FILE - In this photo  provided by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, Russian missile cruis...
The Associated Press

Sailors’ families seek answers about Russian ship sinking

Families of Russian sailors aboard the Moskva are seeking information about the ship sinking.
5 months ago
President Joe Biden walks to board Air Force One, Thursday, April 21, 2022, at Andrews Air Force Ba...
The Associated Press

Biden announces heavy artillery, other weapons for Ukraine

President Joe Biden announced another $1,3 billion in military aide for Ukraine.
6 months ago
Ukrainian soldiers walk on a destroyed bridge in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, on Wednesday, Apr...
The Associated Press

‘Days or hours left’: Russia tightens the noose in Mariupol

Russian forces tighten their grip in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.
6 months ago
A wind-driven wildfire burns at the edge of U.S. 89 on the outskirts of Flagstaff, Ariz., on Tuesda...
The Associated Press

Southwest wildfires force evacuations, tighten resources

An Arizona wildfire more than tripled in size on Wednesday as winds pushed flames through a neighborhood near Flagstaff.
6 months ago
A Ukrainian soldier inspects a Russian tank after recent battles at the village of Moshchun close t...
The Associated Press

Russia pours in more troops and presses attack in the east

Russia poured additional troops into the eastern half of Ukraine in a potential battle for that part of the country.
6 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Prescription opioid...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
...

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
...

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
...

Tax Tuesday: Key Information Before the Filing Deadline

Businesses can receive a credit of up to $5,000 per employee in 2020 and up to $21,000 per employee in 2021.
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Satellite imagery finds likely Kim train amid health rumors