Kim Jong-un’s train possibly spotted at North Korean resort
As rumours persist that ruler is in poor health, satellite images emerge showing train parked at Wonsan’s ‘leadership station’
Published onSat 25 Apr 2020 20.19 EDT
A special train possibly belonging to the North Korean ruler, Kim Jong-un, has been spotted at a resort town, according to satellite images reviewed by a Washington-based North Korea monitoring project, amid conflicting reports about Kim’s health and whereabouts.
The monitoring project, 38 North, said in its report on Saturday that the train was parked at the “leadership station” in Wonsan on 21 April and 23 April. The station is reserved for the use of the Kim family, it said.
Though the group said it was probably Kim’s train, Reuters has not been able to confirm that independently, or whether he was in Wonsan.
“The train’s presence does not prove the whereabouts of the North Korean leader or indicate anything about his health but it does lend weight to reports that Kim is staying at an elite area on the country’s eastern coast,” the report said.Kim Yo-jong: the sister of Kim Jong-un, fast ‘becoming his alter ego’Read more
Speculation about Kim’s health first arose due to his absence from the anniversary of the birthday of North Korea’s founding father and Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung, on 15 April.
On Saturday, Kim missed another national holiday, North Korea’s Military Foundation Day, further fuelling speculation about his health.
According to a report in Newsweek, US intelligence has seen no sign of unusual military activity in the reclusive regime but are continuing to monitor the situation closely.
Newsweek quoted a senior unnamed Pentagon official as saying: “We have observed no indications or received any additional information to make a conclusive assessment on the status of North Korean leadership or health of Kim Jong-un.”
But the official went on to say the presence of the train in Wonsan and Kim’s absence from recent events leant credibility to reports of his ill-health. Kim’s status meant North Korea could conceivably delay announcing his death to ensure security measures were in place, the official said.
North Korea’s state media last reported on Kim’s whereabouts when he presided over a meeting on 11 April.
China has dispatched a team including medical experts to North Korea to advise on Kim, according to three people familiar with the situation.Advertisement
A third-generation hereditary leader who came to power after his father’s death in 2011, Kim has no clear successor in a nuclear-armed country, which could present major international risk.
Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, has recently emerged as a powerful force within the regime, while others being mentioned by international observers include premier Kim Jae-ryong, who conducted a number of site visits around the country on Friday.
On Thursday the US president, Donald Trump, played down reports that Kim was 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.
Trump has met Kim three times in an attempt to persuade him to give up a nuclear weapons programme that threatens the US as well as its Asian neighbours. While talks have stalled, Trump has continued to hail Kim as a friend.
Reporting from inside North Korea is notoriously difficult because of tight controls on information. A Trump administration official said days of North Korean media silence on Kim’s whereabouts had heightened concerns about his condition.
The US State Department did not immediately respond to questions about the situation on Saturday.‘You think Trump will save you?’: my nine days detained by North Korea’s secret policeRead more
Daily NK, a Seoul-based website that reports on North Korea, cited one unnamed source in North Korea on Monday as saying that Kim had undergone medical treatment in the resort county of Hyangsan north of the capital, Pyongyang.
It said that Kim was recovering after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure on 12 April.
Since then, multiple South Korean media reports have cited unnamed sources saying that Kim might be staying in the Wonsan area.
On Friday the local news agency Newsis cited South Korean intelligence sources as reporting that a special train for Kim’s use had been seen in Wonsan, while Kim’s private plane remained in Pyongyang.
Newsis reported Kim may be sheltering from Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
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.