North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has heart surgery

22 Avril, 2020, 16:30 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Trump Kim Jong Un

Long-time North Korea watchers share two characteristics: caution and cynicism.

The most recent media frenzy is like the childhood game of "telephone", where a message is increasingly distorted in its retelling.

Kim Jong Un's disappearance from the public eye is raising speculation about not only his health but also about who's next in line to run North Korea if anything happens to the 36-year-old leader.

Conflicting reports about North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's health highlight the intelligence challenges faced in dealing with the security-obsessed nation, observers said Wednesday.

If Kim's condition is as serious as some have reported-which is far from confirmed-thoughts both inside and outside North Korea will soon turn to the question of succession. "Any credible direct reporting having to do with Kim would be highly compartmented intelligence and unlikely to leak to the media", a Korea specialist working for the U.S. government said on condition of anonymity. Kim was gravely ill following emergency heart surgery.

Since Kim Jong Un became supreme leader in 2012, he has gained weight, and there has been frequent speculation about his poor health.

There were no whispers of anything unusual in the days preceding the announcement of his death.

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"She is important in the regime and she has the all-important Kim family bloodline, but Kim Jo Yong can not be her brother's successor simply because she is a woman", said Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyo's Waseda University and the author of a number of books on the Kim dynasty. Since assuming power in 2011, he has repeatedly replaced senior officials. Being the "second most powerful man in North Korea" has not been a path to success.

Speaking to Reuters, an official at the Chinese Communist Party's International Liaison Department, which deals with North Korea, expressed the belief that Kim was not critically ill.

Kim has sought to have worldwide sanctions against his country eased, but has refused to give up his nuclear weapons.

Kim is the unquestioned leader of North Korea and the sole commander of its nuclear arsenal. Kim Yo-jong would remain loyal to the legacy of her family predecessors. Her proximity to him during those summits led many outsiders to believe she's essentially North Korea's No. 2 official. Hence, its resistance to negotiating them away.

When Kim Jong-un has had medical treatment in the past, it is believed she took over state duties on his behalf, particularly in October 2014. While he is considered to have nearly god-like status among the brainwashed and repressed North Korean people, the government is not likely to be forthcoming regarding his actual health condition outside his immediate circle. Rumors of Kim's failing health should be met with caution, but they should also trigger continued vigilance against the myriad of threats the regime can pose to the United States and its allies.

South Korean intelligence was sufficiently concerned about Kim's health - and the implications for regional instability if he should die - that it developed a sophisticated video analysis program that uses still and video images to create a three-dimensional image of an individual and monitor changes in their physique. The three countries should coordinate their national contingency plans for North Korean scenarios.

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