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Kim Jong Un train spotted as health rumors persist


Global speculation about Kim Jong Un’s health intensified over the weekend, with a flurry of tantalizing -- and unverified -- reports a few visit by a Chinese medical team and movements of the North Korean leader’s armored train.
China sent a team including doctors and senior diplomats to advise its neighbor and longtime ally, Reuters reported Saturday, citing three people conversant in the matter. Meanwhile, a train resembling one long utilized by North Korean rulers was parked last week near a coastal leadership compound in Wonsan, in keeping with an analysis of satellite imagery released Sunday by the web site 38 North.

The latest developments shed little immediate light about 36-year-old ruler, who U.S. officials said they were told had been in critical condition after cardiovascular surgery. Kim -- a significant smoker who has gained considerable weight since taking power in 2011 -- hasn’t appeared in state media for 2 weeks, and missed April 15 birthday celebrations for his late grandfather, state founder Kim Il Sung, for the primary time.

The episode renews longstanding questions about the steadiness of a regime built on iron-fisted authority and a cult of personality for Kim, who has no known successor. Health scares are a standard occurrence over the years, and also the leader’s medical condition may be a closely-guarded subject in one in all the world’s most secretive states.

Any leadership change in Democratic People's Republic of Korea could increase the threat of instability on China’s border and lift questions about control of the country’s expanding nuclear arsenal. Kim has also been central to U.S. President Donald Trump’s up to now unsuccessful efforts to induce him to scale back his weapons stockpile.

The mystery sent journalists, diplomats and non-proliferation experts scouring satellite images, state news outlets and unverified social media feeds for clues about Kim. The hashtag #kimjongundead was the among the highest subjects trending globally Saturday on Twitter. The name of his younger sister Kim Yo Jong -- a possible successor -- was also trending within the U.S.

“Information about the intense state of health of our Marshal Kim Jong Un is fake and malicious,” Korean Friendship Association head Alejandro Cao de ­Benos said during a tweet Saturday. Cao, who was featured within the 2015 documentary “The Propaganda Game,” didn’t say where he got the knowledge and declined further comment when contacted by Bloomberg News.
Kim similarly disappeared from state media for 6 weeks in 2014, prompting speculation that he had been sidelined by gout, an ankle injury or was even overthrown during a coup. He subsequently showed up walking with a cane during a visit to a replacement residential block.

A delegation led by a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department -- which manages relations with Democratic People's Republic of Korea -- departed Beijing on Thursday, Reuters said, adding it wasn’t able to immediately determine what the trip signaled about Kim’s health. Officials with the U.S. National council declined to investigate Saturday.
Speculation about Kim’s condition accelerated after Seoul-based news site Daily NK, reported April 20 that the North Korean leader was recovering from surgery, citing one unidentified person inside the country. CNN reported a brief time later that Kim was in “grave danger.”

Trump has since said he believed the CNN report was “incorrect,” saying he heard “they used old documents.” South Korean officials said repeatedly last week that they believed Kim was conducting “normal activities” during a rural a part of the country assisted by close aides, which they detected no unusual movements by the regime.

The presence of Kim’s train in Wonsan, about 230 kilometers (143 miles) east of Pyongyang, potentially fits with the South Korean account. the realm has received intense interest from Kim in recent years, hosting an expanding leadership compound, an outsized tourism development project and diverse weapons tests.

The train, which Kim took to his failed summit with Trump in Hanoi, got hold of a close-by railroad terminal on or before April 21, 38 North wrote, citing satellite imagery. The train was spotted again at the station on April 23, and looked as if it would be repositioned for departure.
North Korea’s eastern coast saw a burst of military activity on day, including aircraft tests and fighter jet maneuvers, that at the time looked as if it would be timed to coincide with South Korean parliamentary elections. the subsequent day, Kim was absent from events marking his grandfather’s birthday, called the Day of the Sun and North Korea’s most politically significant holiday.
Although state media has continued to publish messages exchanged between Kim and dignitaries, like a letter sent to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday, reports included no fresh images and made no mention of recent events attended by the leader.

 Kim was similarly missing from events Saturday marking the anniversary of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, although he also didn’t attend the events last year

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