Kim Jong-un 'dead' claims surge as insider says North Korean leader 'can't walk or stand'

Kim Jong-un, 36, was absent from public ceremonies on the birth anniversary of his grandfather and founder of the country, Kim Il-sung. His unprecedented disappearance led to days of speculation in the international community over his health, whether he had died, and whether the nuclear-capable state was headed toward instability. Thae Yong-ho, a former North Korean diplomat, has said the leader "can't stand himself or walk properly".

He noted the death of Kim Jong-il was kept a secret for two days and his Foreign Minister wasn't informed until an hour before the official statement.

Thae told CNN: "Kim Jong-un is not only the leader of North Korea, but he is the grandson of Kim Il-sung...to North Korean eyes it is really abnormal.

"I'm not quite sure whether he really had some surgery or whatever, but one thing is clear... he cannot stand up by himself or walk properly."

It comes as a US official told the news site the North Korean leader is "in grave danger after a surgery".

READ MORE: North Korea expert exposes key sign Kim Jong-un still alive 

Thae added: "The only people who can confirm his real condition might be Kim Jong-un's wife or his sister, or his close aides.

"Those rumours of where he is now, (or) whether he has any surgery, I don't think that is really based on the facts."

The United States has caught no sight of Kim and is watching reports about his health, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday, adding there was a real risk of famine in the country amid the coronavirus outbreak.

North Korean media has not reported on Kim's whereabouts since he presided over a meeting on April 11, provoking speculation about his health and raising concerns about instability in the nuclear-armed country that could affect other North Asian countries and the United States.

They caution, however, that Kim's health and location are closely guarded secrets and reliable information is difficult to obtain from secretive North Korea.

On Saturday, a US-based North Korea monitoring project, 38 North, said satellite images showed what was believed to be Kim's personal train parked at a station reserved for his use in Wonsan on April 21 and 23.

New images taken on Wednesday showed a train in the same position, but it was unclear whether it had been there since last week, 38 North said.

On Tuesday, another North Korea-monitoring website, NK PRO, reported that commercial satellite imagery showed boats often used by Kim had moved in patterns suggesting he or his entourage may be in the Wonsan area.

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