U.S. closely monitoring reports on Kim Jong Un's health, national security adviser says
The federal government is looking into intelligence suggesting Kim is in "grave danger" following a surgery.
National security adviser Robert O'Brien confirmed Tuesday the Trump administration is "keeping a close eye" on reports regarding North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's health, and assured Americans that the nation's intelligence community remains focused on external threats amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"We're monitoring these reports very closely," O'Brien told the hosts of "Fox & Friends," adding that North Korea "is a very closed society. There's not a free press there. They're parsimonious with the information they provide about many things, including the health of Kim Jong Un."
O'Brien's remarks came after CNN reported early Tuesday that the U.S. is monitoring intelligence suggesting Kim is in "grave danger" following a surgery, though the severity of the concerns about his health "is hard to assess."
South Korean officials, however, said there had been no abnormal activity in North Korea, according to the Associated Press, and South Korea's presidential office said Kim appeared to be handling state affairs as usual.
The flurry of activity followed an anonymously sourced report in Daily NK, a website founded by North Korean defectors, claiming Kim "recently underwent heart surgery and continues to recuperate from the procedure at a villa outside of Pyongyang."
Kim, who is in his mid-30s, presided over a government meeting on April 11, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency. But he was noticeably absent from the birthday celebration of his late grandfather, state founder Kim Il Sung, on April 15 — North Korea's most important holiday.
Addressing the speculation surrounding Kim's health, O'Brien said Americans "should know that we have a great intelligence community," invoking senior administration officials including President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley.
"We've got a lot of watchmen on the towers during this coronavirus crisis making sure that America is safe, whether it's from the virus or from adversaries abroad," O'Brien said. "So we're keeping a close eye on developments in North Korea, as we are in other parts of the world."