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Kim Jong Un’s ‘train seen in satellite images’ amid conflicting reports about his health

By Tom Gillespie | Sky News |

A train believed to belong to the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has been spotted amid conflicting accounts about his health and whereabouts.

The train has been spotted as speculation mounts about Kim Jong Un's health. (Pic: Getty/Airbus Defence & Space and 38 North/Pleiades © CNES 2020, Distribution Airbus DS)
The train has been spotted as speculation mounts about Kim Jong Un’s health. (Pic: Getty/Airbus Defence & Space and 38 North/Pleiades © CNES 2020, Distribution Airbus DS)

38 North, a Washington-based project that monitors North Korea, has released satellite images of the vehicle in the resort town of Wonsan.

The group said in a report on Saturday that the train was parked at the “leadership station” in the town on 21 and 23 April.

The station is reserved for the use of the Kim family, the monitoring project said.

Though the group has said it was probably the dictator’s train, this has not been confirmed independently.

It is also not clear if Kim, who is believed to be 36, is in Wonsan.

Speculation about the dictator’s health first arose on 15 April when he was absent from the anniversary of the birthday of his grandfather Kim Il Sung who founded the country.

Daily NK, a South Korea-based website that reports on North Korea, cited one unnamed source in the secretive state on Monday as saying Kim had undergone medical treatment in the resort county of Hyangsan.

It said Kim was recovering after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure on 12 April.

Multiple South Korean media reports have since then cited unnamed sources as saying Kim might be staying in the Wonsan area.

CNN reported earlier this week that Kim was in “grave danger” following the surgical procedure, citing an anonymous US official.

China has dispatched a team to North Korea including medical experts to advise on the situation, according to three people familiar with the situation.

Speculation about Kim’s health has been fanned by his heavy smoking, apparent weight gain since taking power and family history of cardiovascular problems.

News agency Newsis cited South Korean intelligence sources on Friday as reporting that a special train for Kim’s use had been seen in Wonsan, while the dictator’s private plane remained in Pyongyang.

The agency reported that Kim may be sheltering from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

38 North’s report said: “The train’s presence does not prove the whereabouts of the North Korean leader or indicate anything about his health but it does lend weight to reports that Kim is staying at an elite area on the country’s eastern coast.”

Reporting from inside North Korea is notoriously difficult because of tight controls on information.

Kim, a third-generation hereditary leader who came to power after his father’s death in 2011, has no clear successor in his nuclear-armed country.

This could present a major international risk.

North Korea’s state media last reported on Kim’s whereabouts when he presided over a meeting on 11 April.

Kim has disappeared from coverage in North Korean state media before. He vanished for more than a month in 2014 and North Korean state TV later showed him walking with a limp.