During Thursday’s White House news briefing, President Donald Trump cast doubt on the intelligence report, although he did not reveal the last time he had spoken to Kim.
“I think the report was incorrect,” the president said.
By Friday, UPI reported that Kim may have surfaced in the coastal city of Wonsan, Kangwon Province, where he could be overseeing construction of a new resort, the New York Post reported, citing the South Korean news service Newsis.
Newsis said Kim’s “dedicated vehicles” were spotted in the region, suggesting the leader was evacuated from Pyongyang. The report said a train designed especially for Kim’s use was stationed in Wonsan, while Kim’s private plane remained in Pyongyang.
North Korea’s oppressive regime typically keeps a tight lid on information about the leader, and much of what is learned about his movements is provided through intelligence, according to previous news reports.
Kim, who is believed to be in his mid-30s, did not appear at the birthday celebrations of his late grandfather and state founder Kim Il Sung on April 15, considered the country’s preeminent holiday.
Kim not being there immediately raised suspicions about his health, although intelligence experts couldn’t say for certain at the time.
The CNN report also emphasized Kim’s absence from state events in the past has led to speculation but nothing more.
Kim presided over a meeting April 11, discussing coronavirus prevention and electing his sister as an alternate member of the political bureau of the ruling Workers' Party, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.
And state media have since reported he sent greetings to Syrian President Bashar Assad and Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel as well as “birthday spreads” to two North Korean officials and a new centenarian.
On Tuesday, North Korea’s presidential office acknowledged Kim was believed to be staying at an unspecified location outside the capital, with some close confidants. It said Kim appeared to be normally engaged with state affairs and there wasn’t any unusual movement or emergency reaction from North Korea’s ruling party, military or Cabinet.
Kim’s absence from state media often triggers speculation.
In 2014, he vanished from the public eye for nearly six weeks before reappearing with a cane. South Korea’s spy agency said days later that he had a cyst removed from his ankle.