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(LEAD) Trump says he 'understands' N.K. leader's situation

All News 07:26 May 01, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with details; ADDS photo)
By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, April 30 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday that he understands the situation with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who has been reported to be gravely ill, but refused to discuss it and continued to wish him well.

Trump's comments follow unconfirmed reports that Kim is in "grave danger" after surgery or hiding out at a coastal compound to escape the coronavirus pandemic.

"I understand what's going on, and I just can't talk about Kim Jong-un right now," Trump said at a White House event about protecting seniors. "I just hope everything is going to be fine. But I do understand the situation very well."

This AP photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump answering questions from reporters during an event about protecting seniors, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, on April 30, 2020. (Yonhap)

Trump initially said last week that the U.S. didn't know if the reports were true and later dismissed one particular report by CNN as "incorrect."

The cable network had cited a U.S. official as saying that Washington was looking into intelligence that Kim was in "grave danger" following surgery.

This week, Trump told reporters he had a "very good idea" about Kim's current condition and the media would likely find out "in the not too distant future." At the same time he said nobody knew where the North Korean leader was.

On Tuesday, he refused to comment, saying: "I just don't want to comment on it. I don't want to comment on it. I just wish him well."

Thursday was at least the second time Trump was asked by a reporter whether Kim was still alive, and he did not directly respond.

Kim has been out of public view since April 11, when he presided over a politburo meeting of the ruling Workers' Party.

His absence from an April 15 commemoration of the birthday of his late grandfather, North Korea founder Kim Il-sung, sparked speculation that there may be something wrong with his health.

South Korean officials have insisted there is nothing unusual happening inside the regime.

Trump and Kim have met three times since June 2018 to try to reach a deal on denuclearizing North Korea in exchange for U.S. sanctions relief.

But negotiations have faltered since their second summit in Vietnam in February 2019 ended without a deal due to differences over the scope of their actions.

Last month Trump sent a letter to Kim -- one of a series of missives exchanged between the leaders -- to offer U.S. assistance with COVID-19.

North Korea has at least publicly not accepted the offer while insisting it has no cases of the coronavirus in the country.


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