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U.S. assumes N.K. leader is 'alive and well': nat'l security adviser

All News 02:08 May 13, 2020

By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, May 12 (Yonhap) -- The United States assumes North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is "alive and well" based on photos released by the country's state media, U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said Tuesday,

Speaking to reporters at the White House, O'Brien refused to say whether the photos have been verified for authenticity.

"He seems to be out cutting ribbons on a fertilizer factory, so, you know, our thinking is that he's probably doing well," he said, referring to the images of Kim at a ceremony on May 1.

This AP file photo shows U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien. (Yonhap)

"We call it the Hermit Kingdom. It's very difficult to get information out of North Korea. They're not very forthcoming with information, but they did release photos of him being alive and well, and we assume that he is," O'Brien said.

Kim was out of public view for 20 days in April, sparking intense speculation about his health and whereabouts. News reports claimed he was in "grave danger" after surgery, hiding out at a coastal resort to escape the coronavirus pandemic, or even dead.

"I can't say one way or the other," O'Brien said when asked if the U.S. has verified the photos' authenticity. "But those are the photos that are out in the open source. And so we're seeing those same photos."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that the United States believes Kim is alive.

President Donald Trump tweeted on May 2 that he was glad to see the North Korean leader "back" and "well."

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) attends a ceremony to mark the completion of a phosphatic fertilizer factory in Sunchon, north of Pyongyang, on May 1, 2020, in this photo released the next day by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

hague@yna.co.kr
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