Donald Trump said on Monday that he has a “very good idea” about the health status of Kim Jong Un after reports that the North Korean leader had died — but then appeared to contradict his own statement a short time later.
The president was asked about the series of conflicting reports that emerged this weekend about Kim’s health, which included some reports claiming he had died after falling into a vegetative state during a cardiovascular procedure and others claiming he was alive and well. As CNN reported, Trump told reporters that he believed he knew the real story about Kim’s condition, though he did not reveal what that would be.
“I can’t tell you, exactly — yes, I do have a very good idea, but I can’t talk about it now. I just wish him well,” Trump said.
But Trump added to the confusion later in the same press conference when he claimed that “nobody” actually knew where Kim was currently.
“He didn’t say anything last Saturday,” Trump said of the day that reports of his alleged death first emerged.
“Nobody knows where he is so he obviously couldn’t have said it. This is breaking news that Kim Jong Un made a statement on Saturday. I don’t think so.”
The CNN report noted that Trump appeared to reference a message Kim sent to workers in the country that was published by its state-run media, though it was not clear when that statement would have been crafted. The North Korean government, which has historically been very tight-lipped about internal workings and especially about the health of its leaders, has not issued any official statement on the reports of Kim’s death.
After the reports claiming Kim died following a heart procedure, a top official in the South Korean government seemed to throw cold water on the rumors and stated that the North Korean leader was “alive and well.”
Chung-in Moon, a top foreign policy advisor to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, said that the South Korean government’s position was that Kim was still alive. He noted that Kim had been spotted in the coastal resort of Wonsan, where he was said to have been since April 13.
Kim first sparked speculation when he was not seen at an April 15 celebrating the birthday of his grandfather, the country’s founding father. Kim also missed a military exercise marking the anniversary, with both absences seen as highly unusual for Kim.