The uncertainty around Kim Jong-un’s future will be watched closely by Donald Trump, who in his failed efforts to negotiate a resolution with North Korea, threatened the rogue state with “decimation”. This peaked when the US President threatened that the Supreme Leader could suffer the same fate as toppled dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. Trump issued the threat at the White House when he was asked about the suggestion by his former national security adviser, John Bolton, that the “Libyan model” could be a template for dealing with North Korea.
The model Bolton was referring to was Gaddafi’s agreement in December 2003 to surrender his embryonic nuclear weapons programme, which included allowing his uranium centrifuges to be shipped out to the US.
Trump said in May 2018: “The model, if you look at that model with Gaddafi, that was a total decimation.
“We went in there to beat him. Now that model would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely. But if we make a deal, I think Kim Jong-un is going to be very, very happy.”
Trump has struggled to reach a deal with Kim for denuclearisation – leading to the breakdown of meetings and hostile exchanges.
In February 2019, the two met in Hanoi, Vietnam, and talks initially looked promising when a reporter asked Kim whether he was considering denuclearisation.
The North Korean President responded: “If I’m not willing to do that, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
However, just hours later a scheduled lunch between Trump and Kim, as well as a potential joint signing ceremony, was cancelled as talks ultimately fell flat.
Trump said at the time: “We had to walk away from that particular suggestion. We had to walk away from that.”
They also met in Stockholm in last October – but the talks in Sweden broke off with the North’s envoy saying the US failed to show flexibility.
Now, any denuclearisation objectives will have been temporarily shelved as the world speculates over Kim Jong un’s health.
It was reported over the weekend that China had sent a team of doctors to treat the North Korean leader, who is thought to be ill.
Unconfirmed reports attributed to Beijing even claimed the dictator had died as the doctors arrived too late to complete a heart surgery.
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Added to the mystery was an alleged sighting of Kim’s train by US spy planes, who reportedly tracked down the Supreme Leader’s entourage to his beachside palace in Wonsan on the east coast of the country.
However, there are also reports stating that Kim is alive and well, as a South Korean intelligence official told Reuters – adding that he will make a public appearance soon.
While his health remains uncertain, focus has shifted to Kim’s sister – Kim Yo-jong – who works as Chief Propagandist in Pyongyang and could be seen as the natural replacement should the reports of Kim’s death be confirmed.
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