A beaming, maskless Kim Jong Un socially distanced himself Monday during a meeting of the politburo of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party — while everyone else sat close together amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The reclusive strongman — whose whereabouts had been the topic of widespread speculation in recent months — appeared to be the picture of health as he smiled broadly in the circular sitdown.
Kim, wearing a white jacket, was seated at least six feet away from his longtime aides, Choe Ryong Hae and Pak Pong Ju, according to Sky News.
Neither he nor the others in attendance in Pyongyang were wearing face masks amid the pandemic, which went unmentioned during state media reports about the meeting.
Although North Korea says it has no confirmed cases of COVID-19, South Korea’s main intelligence agency has said an outbreak in the country cannot be ruled out, according to Reuters.
Photographs showed the others assembled for the top-level meeting sitting close to each other.
North Korea has repeated that it has no immediate plans to resume nuclear negotiations with the United States unless Washington discards what it describes as "hostile" policies towards Pyongyang.
Saturday's statement by North Korean First Vice-Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui came after US President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, John Bolton, told reporters on Thursday that Trump might seek another summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as an "October surprise" before the US presidential election.
"Is it possible to hold dialogue or have any dealings with the US which persists in the hostile policy towards the DPRK in disregard of the agreements already made at the past summit?" Choe said, referring to North Korea by its formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"We do not feel any need to sit face-to-face with the US, as it does not consider the DPRK-US dialogue as nothing more than a tool for grappling its political crisis," she said.
Kim and Trump have met three times since embarking on their high-stakes nuclear diplomacy in 2018, but negotiations have faltered since their second summit in February last year in Vietnam.
In that summit, the US rejected North Korean demands for significant sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capability.
Kim entered 2020 declaring to bolster his nuclear deterrent in face of "gangster-like" US sanctions and pressure.
"The US is mistaken if it thinks things like negotiations would still work on us," she said.
The North in recent months has also been ramping up pressure against South Korea, blowing up an inter-Korean liaison office in its territory and threatening to abandon a bilateral military agreement aimed at reducing tensions.
It follows months of frustration over Seoul's unwillingness to defy US-led sanctions and restart joint economic projects that would breathe life into the North's broken economy.
North Korea's state media on Friday said Kim, while supervising a politburo meeting of the ruling Workers' Party on Thursday, discussed "important issues related to the external affairs" but did not specify what they were.
North Korea’s state news agency has released new photos of Kim Jong Un amid reports he’s been in a coma for months and ceded some power to his sister.
The pics appear to show a healthy-looking Kim leading a meeting on Tuesday of the politburo of the Workers Party to call for prevention efforts against the coronavirus and a typhoon, according to the Korean Central News Agency.
They were syndicated through the Associated Press, which noted that independent journalists weren’t given access to the event and that the images couldn’t be independently verified.
The meeting assessed “some defects in the state emergency anti-epidemic work for checking the inroads of the malignant virus,” KCNA said in a statement.
North Korean state media on Sunday released photos of leader Kim Jong Un paying a visit to coastal areas hit by a typhoon — where he fired a top official over his response to the natural disaster.
Images from the Korean Central News Agency showed the 36-year-old dictator in a white shirt, beige slacks and matching military-style puffed cap surveying the damage in the stricken South Hamgyong province with his deputies on Saturday.
The state-run news agency said Kim was briefed that Typhoon Maysak destroyed more than 1,000 houses and inundated public buildings and farmland when it struck the South and North Hamgyong provinces last week.
The Hermit Kingdom’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said Saturday that “dozens of casualties” were reported in Kangwon province, south of the Hamgyong provinces.
North Korea’s ruling party has called for local officials to be “gravely punished” for failing to follow orders during typhoons, such as evacuating residents to safety, the newspaper said.
Kim dismissed Kim Jong-il, the chairman of the South Hamgyong Provincial Committee of the Workers’ Party and appointed a successor, according to KCNA.
North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un paid his third visit to a typhoon-ravaged region to tour a “socialist fairyland” that was erected by soldiers in the wake of the destruction, state media reported Tuesday.
Kim met with soldiers to praise them for helping quickly rebuild the Kangbuk-ri village in North Hwanghae Province, south of Pyongyang, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
The state media outlet said soldiers had “removed all the traces of the natural disaster” and rebuilt the surrounding villages as a “socialist fairyland.”
Kim was quoted as saying those in charge of the efforts were the “creators of all miracles on this land.”
“The genuine might of the People’s Army lies not in the number of troops and the might of ammunitions but in their ardent love for their country and people and their mental power,” he said in a statement released by KCNA.
He was also photographed days earlier checking on a region hit hard by floods in the same province, which has seen three consecutive typhoons in recent weeks.