North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made his first public appearance in three weeks Sunday, according to state media outlet KCNA. Kim hosted a meeting of military leaders to discuss nuclear capabilities. Several photos were also released, including two showing Kim sitting behind a large desk with a white mug next to his papers. It was the first time Kim was seen since May 1, an appearance that came after days of speculation about his health.
"Set forth at the meeting were new policies for further increasing the nuclear war deterrence of the country and putting the strategic armed forces on a high alert operation," KCNA said, reports Reuters. One of the photos from the meeting published by the Daily Mail shows Kim standing next to a presentation board, using a long white stick to point something out on a blurred image.
Chairman Kim Jong Un Guided Enlarged Meeting of WPK Central Military Commission.— The Beginning... (@coldnoodlefan) May 24, 2020
The meeting discussed important military steps and organizational and political measures to further bolster up the overall armed forces of the DPRK politically and ideologically.#dprk #NorthKorea pic.twitter.com/xNX0EsaRD6
KNCA did not report when the meeting happened. The photos were published after The Washington Post reported on a discussion between U.S. officials about running the country's first nuclear test in 28 years. The discussion happened on May 15 at the White House, but the idea was shelved. A congressional aide told The Guardian there were "some professionals in the room who told them this is a terrible idea."
This was Kim's first public appearance since May 1, when he attended a May Day event in the city of Sunchon. He attended the opening of a fertilizer factory with other North Korean officials. KNCA issued a headline reading "Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un Cuts Tape For Completion Of Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory" and said the event helped mark "the international holiday of the working people of the whole world."
When Kim appeared on May 1, he had not appeared in public since April 11. There were unverified reports that Kim underwent a cardiovascular system procedure, which reportedly did not go well. On April 24, Reuters reported that Chinese officials and doctors traveled to North Korea to "advise" on Kim's health. Then, there were reports that Kim was in "grave danger," in a vegetative state or had already died.
During this rampant speculation, South Korean officials said they saw no evidence to suggest Kim was dead. "Our government position is firm," Chung-in Moon, foreign policy adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, told Fox News back on April 26. "Kim Jong-un is alive and well. He has been staying in the Wonsan area since April 13. No suspicious movements have so far been detected."