Tuesday, September 21, 2021

North Korean leader’s green spot added to list of health mysteries

The 37-year-old leader’s health is one of the mostly closely guarded secrets in North Korea, and an obsession of foreign spy agencies.

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North Korea’s Kim Jong Un appeared recently with a small bandage on the back of his head, stoking more speculation about the reclusive leader’s health, Bloomberg is reporting.

The bandage was visible in state media images when Jong Un appeared at a Korean People’s Army event at the end of July, according to the Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

Since then, the bandage has gone and a dark greenish spot has been visible, triggering even more head scratching about the cause.

The 37-year-old leader’s health is one of the mostly closely guarded secrets in North Korea as he tries to revive the economy and battles food shortages. He’s overweight and a smoker and has been the subject of health speculation for years.

By releasing the images to the outside world, North Korea provided fodder for spy agencies looking for clues to his health.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service believes that aside from the bandage and the green spot there have been no unusual signs regarding Jong Un’s health, the Yonhap News Agency reported on Tuesday.

The spy agency also said Pyongyang’s recent warnings against upcoming joint US-South Korea military drills shows it may be willing to take some corresponding measures if the exercises are halted,

Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who is sometimes touted as his successor, cautioned this week that the maritime drills could jeopardise talks with Seoul, a move that reinforced worries North Korea might use South Korean president Moon Jae-in’s desire for dialogue to try to force him to break with the US.

Reuters is reporting that North Korea wants international sanctions banning its metal exports and imports of refined fuel and other necessities lifted in order to restart denuclearisation talks with the US, South Korean lawmakers said on Tuesday.

The North has also demanded the easing of sanctions on its imports of luxury goods so it can bring in fine liquors and suits, the lawmakers said.

North Korea’s state-run media made no mention on Tuesday of any new request for the lifting sanctions to restart talks.

Reuters is also reporting that North Korea criticised Britain on Tuesday for a plan to permanently deploy two warships in the Asia-Pacific region this year, calling it a “provocation”.

News of the British plan coincided with the passage of its aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth and its escort ships through seas in which China is vying for influence with the US and Japan.

A North Korean official criticised comments by Britain’s defence minister, Ben Wallace, as suggesting that Pyongyang and Beijing were trying to isolate Japan and South Korea and threaten freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region.

“It is a kind of provocation against us that Britain, which is intensifying the situation by shoving its warships into far-off Asia-Pacific, is citing our ‘threat’ as an excuse,” the official said in a statement on the foreign ministry website.

“This will only result in strong resistance from local countries and tension in the already-sensitive regional situation.”

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