President Donald Trump on Tuesday wished North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “good luck” following reports suggesting Kim could be incapacitated following a cardiovascular surgery.
“These are reports that came out, and we don’t know,” Trump said at a White House press briefing when asked what he knew about Kim’s condition.
“I’ve had a very good relationship with him. I wouldn’t — I can only say this, I wish him well, because if he is in the kind of condition that the reports say, that’s a very serious condition, as you know,” Trump said. “But I wish him well.”
The president added: “I’ve said it and I’ve said it many times, if somebody else were in this position right now we would be at war with North Korea … So I just have to say to Kim Jong Un, I wish him very, you know, good luck.”
Speculation about Kim’s health first arose after his absence from the April 15 anniversary birthday celebration of North Korea’s founding father Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of Kim Jong Un.
Daily NK, a South Korean newspaper that focuses its coverage on North Korea, said late Monday that Kim on April 12 received a cardiovascular procedure at Hyangsan Hospital. The outlet also reported that Kim was recovering in a villa near the hospital.
NBC News, citing American officials, reported early Tuesday that Kim recently had cardiovascular surgery. Some of those officials said intelligence suggests Kim could be incapacitated.
NBC’s report seemed to contradict South Korea’s presidential office, which told the outlet that Kim “is currently touring provincial areas with his close aides and we do not detect evidences to support speculation about his ill health.”
Trump said at the briefing Tuesday night that “nobody’s confirmed” the “very serious” reports about Kim’s health.
The president said his relationship with Kim has been “very good,” which has been to the benefit of the U.S.
“That’s not a bad thing, that’s a good thing,” Trump said. “I’d like to see him be well and we will see how he does. Again, I don’t know if the reports are true.”
President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as they meet at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom, South Korea, June 30, 2019.
KCNA via Reuters
Asked if he knew who the heir apparent to Kim would be, Trump said, “I don’t want to ask him that. I have asked him that but it’s not my purpose to tell you that.”
Kim Jong Un was put forward as the “Great Successor” in 2009 and was made a four-star general the following year. His father, Kim Jong Il, died in 2011 and was believed to be about 70 years old at the time of his death. As planned, Kim took over and was probably around 28 years old.
While little is known about the North Korean leader and his immediate family, Kim is believed to be about 36 years old and is married to a woman named Ri Sol Ju. The North Korean leader could have three children, one of them is a girl named Kim Ju Ae.
Under Kim, the reclusive state has conducted its most powerful nuclear test, launched its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missile and threatened to send missiles into the waters near Guam, a U.S. territory.
North Korea is the only nation known to have tested nuclear weapons this century. Since 2011, Kim has launched more than 100 missiles and conducted four nuclear weapons tests, which is more than his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather, Kim Il Sung, launched over a 27-year period.