In an interview with Fox News broadcast on Saturday, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina discussed the rumors that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has fallen ill after heart surgery, reports The Washington Examiner.
Speaking with anchor Jeanine Pirro, Graham said that North Korea is a "closed society," which is why it is likely that the allegations are true.
"I haven't heard anything directly, but I'll be shocked if he's not dead or in some incapacitated state because you don't let rumors like this go forever or go unanswered in a closed society which is really a cult, not a country, called North Korea."Graham reaffirmed that he believes there is credence to the reports, expressing hope that "the long-suffering North Korean people will get some relief if he is dead."
Regardless of whether Kim is alive or dead, President Donald Trump is willing to go back to the negotiating table, Graham suggested. The senator added that he hopes the dictator's successor will be someone more flexible and willing to work with Trump on improving the conditions in the impoverished country.
"President Trump is willing to do business with North Korea in a win-win fashion. So if this guy is dead, I hope the guy who takes over will work with President Trump to make North Korea a better place for everybody," Graham said.
As The Washington Examiner notes, Trump said on Thursday that he believes reports about Kim's condition were "incorrect." New information has emerged since then, and Trump still hasn't commented on the issue.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared on Fox News after Graham, but unlike the senator, she did not weigh in on the situation, stating that she would rather let Trump or the National Security Council make an official announcement.
The 36-year-old dictator is reportedly morbidly obese and a heavy smoker, which makes him more susceptible to severe health issues.
Speculation about Kim's health intensified after he missed an event celebrating an anniversary of North Korea's armed forces.China has reportedly sent a team of medical experts to North Korea in order to advise officials how to proceed. According to South Korean intelligence services, there is still no evidence that Kim has fallen ill or died.
As conflicting reports about Kim's health emerge, experts are warning that Kim's death would destabilize the region and possibly lead to armed conflict. According to David Maxwell, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the dictator's death would likely lead to internal conflict first, which could cause a civil war and spark a refugee crisis.