China sends medics to North Korea amid claims in Japanese media Kim Jong Un is in a vegetative state


China has dispatched a team to North Korea including medical experts to advise on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to three people familiar with the situation.

The trip by the Chinese doctors and officials comes amid conflicting reports about the health of the North Korean leader, with one Japanese media outlet claiming that he is in a ‘vegetative state’ after he underwent heart surgery.

Reuters was unable to immediately determine what the trip by the Chinese team signaled in terms of Kim’s health. 

A Japanese news outlet has claimed that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, pictured, is in a vegetative state following heart surgery

A report by the weekly Shukan Gendai  in Japan claimed on Friday that North Korea’s dictator us currently in a ‘vegetative state’ after having heart surgery earlier in the month.

The outlet cited a Chinese medic who is believed to have been sent as part of the team to treat Kim Jong Un after a delay in a simple heart procedure had left the leader severely ill. 

The source cited by the news outlet claimed that Jong Un was visiting the countryside when he clutched his chest and fell to the ground. A doctor with him at the time is said to have  performed CPR on accompanied him to a hospital.

While there is no official proof of the dictator’s death, the hashtag #KimJongUndead was trending on twitter on Friday following the report. 

A delegation led by a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department left Beijing for North Korea on Thursday, two of the people said. The department is the main Chinese body dealing with neighbouring North Korea.

The sources declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the matter. 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center right, his wife Ri Sol Ju, right, Chinese President Xi Jinping, center left, and his wife Peng Liyuan taken on June 20, 2019

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center right, his wife Ri Sol Ju, right, Chinese President Xi Jinping, center left, and his wife Peng Liyuan taken on June 20, 2019 

South Korean people watch a TV broadcasting a news report on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Seoul, South Korea, April 21. China has dispatched a team to North Korea including medical experts to advise on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to three people familiar with the situation

South Korean people watch a TV broadcasting a news report on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Seoul, South Korea, April 21. China has dispatched a team to North Korea including medical experts to advise on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to three people familiar with the situation

The Liaison Department could not be reached by Reuters for comment late on Friday. China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment late on Friday.

Daily NK, a Seoul-based website, reported earlier this week that Kim was recovering after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure on April 12. It cited one unnamed source in North Korea.

South Korean government officials and a Chinese official with the Liaison Department challenged subsequent reports suggesting that Kim was in grave danger after surgery. South Korean officials said they had detected no signs of unusual activity in North Korea.

On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump also downplayed earlier reports that Kim was gravely ill. ‘I think the report was incorrect,’ Trump told reporters, but he declined to say if he had been in touch with North Korean officials.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (centre) visiting the construction site of the Sunchon phosphatic fertiliser factory in South Pyongan province on January 7

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (centre) visiting the construction site of the Sunchon phosphatic fertiliser factory in South Pyongan province on January 7

US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un stand on North Korean soil while walking to South Korea in the Demilitarized Zone on June 30, 2019

US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un stand on North Korean soil while walking to South Korea in the Demilitarized Zone on June 30, 2019 

On Friday, a South Korean source told Reuters their intelligence was that Kim was alive and would likely make an appearance soon. The person said he did not have any comment on Kim’s current condition or any Chinese involvement.

An official familiar with U.S. intelligence said that Kim was known to have health problems but they had no reason to conclude he was seriously ill or unable eventually to reappear in public.

A U.S. State department spokeswoman had no comment. U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, when asked about Kim’s health on Fox News after Trump spoke said, ‘I don’t have anything I can share with you tonight, but the American people should know we’re watching the situation very keenly.’

North Korea is one of the world’s most isolated and secretive countries, and the health of its leaders is treated as a matter of state security. Reuters has not been able to independently confirm any details on Kim’s whereabouts or condition.

North Korea’s state media last reported on Kim’s whereabouts when he presided over a meeting on April 11. State media did not report that he was in attendance at an event to mark the birthday of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, on April 15, an important anniversary in North Korea.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pictured on December 4, 2019. The trip by the Chinese doctors and officials comes amid conflicting reports about the health of the North Korean leader

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pictured on December 4, 2019. The trip by the Chinese doctors and officials comes amid conflicting reports about the health of the North Korean leader

On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump also downplayed earlier reports that Kim was gravely ill

On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump also downplayed earlier reports that Kim was gravely ill

Kim, believed to be 36, has disappeared from coverage in North Korean state media before. In 2014, he vanished for more than a month and North Korean state TV later showed him walking with a limp. Speculation about his health has been fanned by his heavy smoking, apparent weight gain since taking power and family history of cardiovascular problems.

When Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, suffered a stroke in 2008, South Korean media reported at the time that Chinese doctors were involved in his treatment along with French physicians.

Last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping made the first state visit in 14 years by a Chinese leader to North Korea, an impoverished state that depends on Beijing for economic and diplomatic support.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks with his wife Ri Sol Ju at Pyongyang Station in Pyongyang, North Korea, in January last year. An official familiar with U.S. intelligence said that Kim was known to have health problems but they had no reason to conclude he was seriously ill or unable eventually to reappear in public

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks with his wife Ri Sol Ju at Pyongyang Station in Pyongyang, North Korea, in January last year. An official familiar with U.S. intelligence said that Kim was known to have health problems but they had no reason to conclude he was seriously ill or unable eventually to reappear in public

China is North Korea’s chief ally and the economic lifeline for a country hard-hit by U.N. sanctions, and has a keen interest in the stability of the country with which it shares a long, porous border.

Kim is a third-generation hereditary leader who came to power after his father Kim Jong Il died in 2011 from a heart attack. He has visited China four times since 2018.

Trump held unprecedented summits with Kim in 2018 and 2019 as part of a bid to persuade him to give up North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.

 

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