(CNSNews.com) – President Trump on Thursday night voiced doubts about the accuracy of reports saying Kim Jong Un was gravely ill, saying he believes they are false.
“I think it was a fake report,” Trump said during a White House coronavirus briefing.
“Done by CNN,” he added.
CNN on Tuesday cited an unnamed U.S. official as saying the U.S. was monitoring intelligence to the effect that Kim was “in grave danger after a surgery.”
“I think the report was done by a network that was incorrect,” Trump said. “I’m hearing they used old documents. But I – that’s what I hear. I hear the report was an incorrect report.”
“I hope it was an incorrect report,” he added.
State media have carried no reports on Kim’s public activities since April 12 – the same day that, according to Daily NK, Kim reportedly underwent surgery for a cardiovascular issue caused by “excessive smoking, obesity and overwork.” Daily NK is a South Korean-based news service with a secret network of stringers in the North.
Kim was not shown observing the launch on April 14 of short-range missiles off the country’s east coast, and was unexpectedly absent during the April 15 celebration of the birthday of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung, one of the most important events on the regime’s annual calendar.
The regime has yet to respond publicly to reports saying Kim was critically ill, but it does claim that he sent a letter on Wednesday to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.
Asked when last he had heard from Kim, Trump demurred.
“I don’t want to say,” he said, then when asked whether he had made any contact with “the North Koreans,” he repeated, “I don’t want to say, I won’t say that.”
“We have a good relationship with North Korea – as good as you can have, I mean, we have a good relationship with North Korea,” he added. “I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un, and I hope he’s okay. And somebody will say ‘oh, that’s terrible.’ No, it’s not terrible. I hope he’s okay.”
Trump has drawn strong criticism for referring in warm terms to the North Korean dictator, with whom he has met three times – summits in Singapore in June 2018 and Hanoi in February 2019, and a meeting at the DMZ dividing the two Koreas last June.
His administration continues to apply sanctions on the regime, however, even though its refusal to ease them has stalled progress in talks aimed at shutting down Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programs. (The Hanoi summit collapsed largely over the issue.)
The fitful diplomatic initiative has produced a significant easing of tensions on the peninsula, with no nuclear or long-range ballistic missile test since the fall of 2017. Short-range missile tests resumed 12 months ago.
Trump on Thursday recalled critics’ accusations that he would drag America into a war with North Korea.
“Remember, I was going to be the one that took us into war on my first day in office, okay? Here we are, look at what’s happened. Withdrawal, we’re bringing people home,” he said in reference to troop drawdowns in the Middle East. “We’re not going to serve as policemen all over the world.”
‘No matter who is leading North Korea’
Asked Wednesday about the prospect of working with Kim’s sister – thought a potential successor in the event of his early demise – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the goal would remain unchanged irrespective of who was at the helm in Pyongyang.
“Whoever is leading North Korea, we want them to give up their nuclear program, we want them to join the league of nations, and we want a brighter future for the North Korean people,” he told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham.
“But they’ve got to denuclearize, and we’ve got to do so in a way that we can verify. That’s true no matter who is leading North Korea.”
North Korea’s foreign ministry issued a statement Wednesday claiming Kim had sent a message to Assad that day, replying to an earlier message from the Syrian leader.
“Kim Jong Un, in his message, expressed his deep thanks to the President of the Syrian Arab Republic for sending his heartfelt message of greetings on the occasion of the 108th birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung, reflecting the warm respect for Kim Il Sung, who is always alive in the hearts of the Korean people and the progressive peoples of the world,” it said.
“Expressing the belief that the DPRK-Syria friendly and cooperative ties would grow stronger true to the noble intention of the preceding leaders and the desire of the peoples of the two countries, the message wished the Syrian President good health and greater success in his responsible work.”
Kim Jong Un’s Sister Oversees Brutal Regime’s Propaganda Efforts (Feb. 12, 2018)