North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un resurfaced once again this weekend to chair a meeting on the country’s nuclear weapons program, state media announced on Sunday.
State television showed footage of masked regime officials greeting Kim as he entered the meeting of Central Military Commission to discuss enlarging North Korea’s armed forces and “reliably contain the persistent big or small military threats from the hostile forces,” namely through constructing new military weapons.
“Set forth at the meeting were new policies for further increasing the nuclear war deterrence of the country and putting the strategic armed forces on a high alert operation in line with the general requirements for the building and development of the armed forces of the country,” reported state propaganda newspaper Rodung Sinmun. “Taken at the meeting were crucial measures for considerably increasing the firepower strike ability of the artillery pieces of the Korean People’s Army.”
According to the Pyongyang Times, Kim concluded the meeting by signing an order promoting the military ranks of two commanding officers.
The meeting is noteworthy not just because it shows North Korea’s intention to continue developing its nuclear arsenal as opposed to progressing peace talks with the United States, but because Kim has been so rarely seen in public over the past few months. His absence from a key national holiday prompted intense speculation about his health, with some outlets including CNN suggesting he was in critical condition or dead following a serious surgical operation.
Information about Kim’s condition is notoriously hard to come by given the highly secretive nature of the communist regime. Analysts widely believe he is poor health, mainly as a result of chain-smoking and being morbidly obese, yet no concrete details of his condition have ever surfaced.
Rumors that he was in grave danger culminated this month after he made a public appearance after three weeks to mark the completion of the construction of a fertilizer plant in Sunchon. Before that, he had been last seen during a Worker’s Party meeting on April 11th to discuss coronavirus prevention.
Despite officials wearing masks, the communist country has repeatedly claimed to be completely unaffected by the global pandemic. Last month, a senior health official claimed that “not one single” people had contracted the virus, despite widespread reports suggesting that the outbreak has penetrated the country. The North Korean population is understood to be particularly vulnerable to such a pandemic because of their generally poor health and the decrepit state of the country’s health care system.