US source: North Korean leader in grave danger after surgery
The National Security Council and the office of the director of national intelligence declined to comment when they were reached by CNN on Monday. CNN also contacted the CIA and the State Department for comments and solicited comments from the South Koreans.
Intelligence gathering in North Korea is notoriously difficult – one of the most difficult targets for US intelligence.
North Korea closely controls all information surrounding its leader, who is treated almost like a deity in the country. His absences from official state media often spark speculation and rumors about his health. North Korea has no free press and is often a black hole when it comes to governing the country. Analysts are highly dependent on analysis of state media dispatches and viewing propaganda videos for any semblance of evidence.
Kim last appeared in North Korean state media on April 11. April 15 – North Korea’s most important holiday, the anniversary of the birth of the country’s founding father, Kim Il Sung – came and went without any official mention of Kim Jong Un’s movements.
Experts do not know what to think of Kim’s absence from any party celebrating her grandfather. When North Korean leaders have not attended these important celebrations in the past, this has heralded major developments. But it also turned out to be nothing.
“There have been a number of recent rumors about Kim’s health (smoking, heart and brain). If Kim is hospitalized, that would explain why he was not present during the major celebrations on April 15,” said Bruce Klingner, principal investigator. member of the Heritage Foundation and former deputy chief of division of the CIA for North Korea. “But, over the years, there have been a number of false rumors about the health of Kim Jong-un or his father. We will have to wait and see.”
Kim Jong Il’s absence from a parade celebrating North Korea’s 60th anniversary in 2008 was followed by rumors that he was in poor health. It was later revealed that he had had a stroke, after which his health continued to decline until his death in 2011.
Kim Jong Un disappeared from the public eye for over a month in 2014, which also sparked speculation about his health. He returned with a cane and a few days later, South Korean intelligence said he had a cyst removed from his ankle.
“It is easy to be mistaken on this point,” said John Delury, professor of international relations at Yonsei University in Seoul.
This story is breaking and will be updated.
Joshua Berlinger, Zachary Cohen, Betsy Klein and Alex Marquardt from CNN contributed to this story.