President Donald Trump cast doubt on reports that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un was in critical condition after undergoing cardiovascular surgery.
“I think the report was incorrect,” Trump told reporters Thursday at the White House, without explaining the basis of his comments or specifying what was incorrect.
U.S. officials said Monday they were told Kim was in critical condition after undergoing cardiovascular surgery last week and they were unsure of his current health. At the same time, South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office said that Kim was conducting “normal activities” in a rural part of the country assisted by close aides and no special movements were detected.
Trump didn’t say whether he thought U.S. intelligence reports were incorrect. At one point while responding to a reporter’s question about Kim on Thursday, Trump said: “I think it was a fake report done by CNN.”
He also said: “I think the report was done by a network that was incorrect. I’m hearing they used old documents.”
On Tuesday, Trump said he didn’t know the status of Kim’s health, but wished him well. Questions about Kim’s health arose after he did not appear at a celebration on April 15 marking the birthday of his grandfather Kim Il Sung, the founder of the state and its leader during the Korean War.
Trump and Kim have gone from trading insults in 2017, when North Korea was testing nuclear weapons and missiles that could deliver them to the U.S., to striking up what Pyongyang officials describe as “mysteriously wonderful chemistry” after meeting three times since a summit in June 2018. Despite the unprecedented talks and the bonhomie between the two, there have been no indications that Kim has slowed down his production of weapons of mass destruction.
“I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un and I hope he’s O.K.,” Trump said on Thursday.
(Updates with earlier Trump comments in fourth paragraph.)