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Jacob Fromer is NK News's Washington DC correspondent. He previously worked in the U.S. Senate.
U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he doesn’t know as-yet-unconfirmed reports about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s deteriorating health are true, while stressing that, if they are, “I wish him well.”
The comments are the first from the U.S. President since reports first emerged on Monday night suggesting the DPRK leader was suffering from ill health and had undergone a “cardiovascular procedure.”
The Seoul-based website Daily NK published an article earlier in the day with an anonymous source claiming that Kim was recovering from an operation earlier in the month, with CNN then reporting later in the evening said that the U.S. was “monitoring intelligence” that Kim was in “grave danger.”
Speaking at a COVID-19 news conference at the White House, Trump seemed to express some sympathy for the North Korean leader, while acknowledging that even he did not know the true state of Kim Jong Un’s health.
“Well, these are reports that came out and — we don’t know, we don’t know,” Trump said. “I’ve had a very good relationship with him.”
“I can only say this: I wish him well, because if he is in the kind of condition that the reports say, that the news is saying, that would be a — that’s a very serious condition, as you know,” he said. “But I wish him well, and we’ve had a good relationship.”
“So I just have to say to Kim Jong Un, I wish him very — you know, good luck.”
Trump then described the medical reports as “very, very serious,” but added that “nobody’s confirmed that.”
“It’s CNN that came out, so when CNN comes out with a report, I don’t place so much credence in it,” he added.
Other world leaders and governments also downplayed the rumors about Kim’s health on Tuesday, with South Korea’s Blue House stressing that they had “detected no special movements” in the North suggesting the leader was in danger.
A spokesperson for the Russian government said Tuesday that Moscow was aware of the reports, but added, “We don’t know to what extent these reports are true.”
“We are waiting for official data,” Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said.
Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, also told media that “I did read some media reports on this, but I’m not sure of their source.”
North Korean state media did not appear to have commented on the rumors as of Wednesday morning in Pyongyang, though state media did report that the leader had sent “birthday spreads” to a number of “persons of merit.”
Later in Tuesday news conference, Trump was asked if he would reach out directly to Kim.
“Well I may, but look, I just hope he’s doing fine,” he said. “And you know, I’ve had a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un, and that’s to the benefit of the country. That’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing.
“And I’d like to see him be well, and we’ll see how he does,” he added. “Again, I don’t know that the reports are true.”
Asked who might take over North Korea in the event of Kim’s death, the President said that while he had asked Kim about the line of succession in his country, he could not comment.
“It’s not my… purpose to tell you that, in all fairness, but you know I hope he does well,” Trump said.
Colin Zwirko contributed reporting
Edited by Oliver Hotham
U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he doesn't know as-yet-unconfirmed reports about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's deteriorating health are true, while stressing that, if they are, "I wish him well."
The comments are the first from the U.S. President since reports first emerged on Monday night suggesting the DPRK leader was suffering from ill health and had undergone a “cardiovascular procedure."