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.
"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."
BTS fails to win Grammy for 3rd consecutive year
(LEAD) 1st S. Korean state compensation ordered for victim of Vietnam War mass killings
Jay Park's Won Soju to be sold in U.S.
(2nd LD) Search under way for 9 missing after fishing boat capsizes
(LEAD) Ahn calls off campaigning activities amid row with Yoon's office
S. Korea opens metaverse platform for Korean-language learning
(LEAD) N. Korean leader visits barracks with his daughter to mark army founding anniv.
N. Korea holds military parade in Pyongyang to mark armed forces' founding anniv.: source
Ex-gov't employee summarily indicted for alleged attempt to sell Jungkook's lost hat
S. Korea to hold nationwide civil air defense drills in May after 6-year hiatus