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China Sends Doctors to North Korea as Rumors on Kim Jong Un's Health Swirl

Newsweek logo Newsweek 4/25/2020 Matt Keeley
Kim Jong-un wearing a black shirt: North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un before a meeting with US President Donald Trump on the south side of the Military Demarcation Line that divides North and South Korea, in the Joint Security Area (JSA) of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) on June 30, 2019. © Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un before a meeting with US President Donald Trump on the south side of the Military Demarcation Line that divides North and South Korea, in the Joint Security Area (JSA) of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) on June 30, 2019.

China has sent a team of doctors to North Korea to help determine Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un's health status, Reuters reported on Friday. Hong Kong Satellite Television reported that Kim was dead, though there has been no confirmation from U.S. sources at this point.

"While the US continues to monitor reports surrounding the health of the North Korean Supreme Leader, at this time, there is no confirmation from official channels that Kim Jong-un is deceased," a senior Pentagon official not authorized to speak on the record told Newsweek. "North Korean military readiness remains within historical norms and there is no further evidence to suggest a significant change in defensive posturing or national level leadership changes."

On Monday, rumors spread that the North Korean leader was in ill health after undergoing heart surgery on April 12. His last public appearance was on April 11, at a politburo meeting. These rumors were subsequently discounted by U.S. intelligence, who reported they had no reason to think that Kim had suffered any kind of serious illness. Similarly, at the time, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency cited a government official who said there was nothing unusual coming from North Korea that could suggest Kim was ill.

Should the reports of Kim's death prove accurate, there are a number of questions over who would be his successor. Many think that his younger sister Kim Yo Jong, reported to be 31 and one of Kim's key lieutenants, would take over the role of Supreme Leader.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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