The vice chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday he had no reason to believe that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was not still “in full control” of the country.
Gen. John Hyten said military intelligence didn’t confirm or deny reports that Kim was in poor health following a recent surgical procedure, The Hill reported.
“In the intel, I don’t have anything to confirm or deny anything along those lines, so I assume that Kim Jong Un is still in full control of the Korean nuclear force and the Korean military forces,” Hyten told reporters at the Pentagon.
“I have no reason not to assume that,” he said, comments that came the same day that the North said that Kim had sent a letter to Syrian strongman Bashar al Assad.
Questions about Kim’s health arose after news reports said he was in grave condition following cardiovascular surgery last week.
But the the Chinese and South Korean governments said Kim appeared to be handling state affairs as usual.
And the official Korean Central News Agency reported Wednesday that Kim sent a reply to Assad, who had congratulated him on the anniversary of his late grandfather’s birth last week, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
“Kim Jong Un, in his message, expressed his deep thanks to the president of the Syrian Arab Republic for sending his heartfelt message of greeting, reflecting the warm respect for President Kim Il Sung, who is always alive in the hearts of the Korean people and the world progressives, on the occasion of his 108th birth anniversary,” KCNA said.
“Expressing the belief that the DPRK-Syria friendly and cooperative ties would grow stronger true to the noble intention of the preceding leaders and the desire of the peoples of the two countries, the message wished the Syrian president good health and greater success in his responsible work,” it added.
Speculation about what happened to Kim grew since he apparently skipped his annual visit to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun for the 108th birthday celebration on April 15.
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