The US government has contingency plans in place in the event North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un should die after reports that his health was in grave condition.
Sources discussed the plans but urged caution about the veracity of the reports, which claimed Kim is in bad shape after a cardiovascular procedure, Fox News reported.
Those plans include the possibility of a mass-scale humanitarian crisis inside the hermit nation such as a famine, according to the report.
One official described a scenario in North Korea that could include millions of people facing starvation and a mass exodus of North Korean refugees into China.
Intelligence sources told Fox that part of the plan would be to rely on neighboring China to step in and help manage the situation in North Korea due to logistical challenges the US would face in providing humanitarian assistance from halfway around the globe.
The Daily NK, a Seoul-based online news periodical run mostly by North Korean defectors, reported that Kim, 36, was recovering from his April 12 surgery at a resort country villa on the east coast in a report based on a lone source.
CNN also reported on his purported poor health saying Kim has been in bad health because of heavy smoking, obesity and overwork.
But South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said Tuesday the South’s government has seen no unusual signs suggesting North Korean leader Kim was ill.
Presidential spokesman Kang Min-seok said that nothing unusual had been observed in the North.
“No unusual signs have been identified inside North Korea,” Kang said. “There is nothing we can confirm with regard to Chairman Kim’s alleged health problem.”
A senior presidential official said that Kim was staying in a provincial region together with close aides.
“No unusual signs have been found that can back up the alleged health problem,” the official said.
“North Korea’s Workers’ Party, the military, the cabinet are not showing any special moves, such as an emergency alert.”
The official also said that Kim appeared to be acting “normally.”
Speculation about Kim grew since he skipped an annual visit to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun for the 108th birthday of his late grandfather and state founder Kim Il-sung last Wednesday.
Talks between President Donald Trump and Kim over North Korea’s nuclear program have been stalled since the pair met in June 2019 in the DMZ separating the two Koreas.
On Tuesday, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told reporters at the White House that the administration was “watching reports closely.”
“We are monitoring these reports very closely and as you know North Korea is a very closed society, there is not a free press there, they are parsimonious with the information they provide on many things, including the health of Kim Jong Un,” O’Brien said, adding that the US intelligence community and Defense Department were watching the situation.It’s unclear what would happen if Kim is sidelined by health problems or dies.
While North Korea has not made clear who would potentially succeed Kim, some experts believe his sister, Kim Yo Jong, would step in as nominal leader.
Others told Fox that North Korea could be ruled by the collective leadership of party elites, similar to the Soviet Union after the iron rule of Joseph Stalin.