Japan’s defence minister has reignited suspicions that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is suffering from poor health.
Addressing media at the Japanese Foreign Correspondents Club on Thursday (local time), Taro Kono said concern for Mr Kim’s health was one of several matters Japan had been discussing with other countries, according to NK News.
He speculated increasingly provocative military moves by North Korea in recent weeks may have been designed to “take away the attention of North Korean people away from Kim Jong-un’s health, or the bad harvest, or the bad economy”.
Mr Kono suggested Mr Kim was rarely sighted in public because the hermit state’s leader was trying to not be infected by COVID-19, which he suspected had spread to the country despite no official cases being recorded.
“We suspect, number one, that COVID-19 is spreading around North Korea as well, and Kim Jong-un is trying to… not [be] infected by COVID-19. So sometimes he doesn’t come [out] in public,” Mr Kono said.
“Number two, we have some suspicion about his health. Thirdly, the harvest last year in North Korea wasn’t quite good – bad, actually… The economy in North Korea is not doing well.”
Some thought the dictator had been replaced by a body double due to him either dying or being incapacitated.
Mr Kono’s commentary came after the North blew up a joint liaison office on its side of the border and declared an end to dialogue with the South.
Political tensions between the rival Koreas have been rising over Pyongyang's objections to plans by defector-led groups in the South to send propaganda leaflets into the North.
North Korea claims the moves violate an agreement between the two aimed at preventing military confrontation, and accused the defectors of insulting the dignity of the hermit state's supreme leadership.
North Korea's military was seen removing about 10 loudspeakers near the demilitarised zone on Wednesday, just days after they were seen reinstalling about 20 of the devices, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported, citing unnamed military sources.
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