(Reuters) – A surprise visit by a senior North Korea delegation toSouth Korea and the disappearance from public view of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the past month have triggered speculation about Kim’s health and the stability of his government.
But U.S. analysts say both can just as easily be interpreted as diplomatic tactics by Pyongyang, aimed at dividing and weakening international pressure over its nuclear weapons program and human rights record as well as propaganda for domestic consumption.
North Korean officials have denied that Kim’s public absence since Sept. 3 is health-related and a U.S. official following North Korea said there were no indications he was seriously ill or in political trouble.
While minor health problems could not be ruled out, Washington believed a purge last year that resulted in Kim having his uncle and former top advisor executed had cemented him in power, said the official, who asked not to be identified.
“There’s no sign that something big is going on,” the official said, adding that Kim’s absence from some high-level meetings was not unusual as his predecessors, father Kim Jong Il and grandfather Kim Il Sung, did not always attend either.
North and South Korea agreed on Saturday to resume reconciliation talks after North Korea sent its most senior delegation ever to its neighbor at just 24 hours’ notice.
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