S.Korea: Gunshots fired from the North

Monday, 04 May, 2020

Kim Jong-un's health drew global interest after he missed out on the 15 April anniversary of the birthday of his grandfather and state founder, Kim Il Sung, one of the biggest days on North Korea's calendar.

Despite this messaging, rumors about Kim's health problems have not been completely dispelled in the wake of his mysterious absence that began on April 15, when he missed the birthday of his grandfather who began the family's dynastic rule.

It said South Korea suffered no casualties.

At a New Year's address, Kim warned that his country is no longer bound by its self-imposed suspension of nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests, vowing the world would soon witness a "new strategic weapon".

It was the first reported public sighting for Kim since April 11 when he was presiding over a political bureau meeting of the ruling Workers Party.

Officials in Seoul have downplayed reports the North Korean leader might be seriously ill or dead, while US President Donald Trump suggested earlier this week that Washington believed Mr Kim to be alive. The North's official Korean Central News Agency hasn't reported about the incident. North Korean media later showed him walking with a cane; South Korean intelligence said he had undergone ankle surgery.

On Friday, when news first broke of Kim's appearance, Trump told reporters he "may" speak with the North Korean leader this weekend.

The North is extremely secretive, and doubly so about its leadership.

"I would think we are back to where we were", said Joseph Yun, who was a U.S. North Korea envoy under former President Barack Obama and at the start of the Trump administration. In 2014, he dropped out of sight for almost six weeks before reappearing with a cane.

Trump and Kim have met three times, although talks on the North's nuclear capabilities have always been stalled with no sign of them resuming.

However, most of the commitments of the deal were not fulfilled by North Korea.

The last time there was gunfire along the border was in 2017, when North Korea sprayed bullets at a soldier fleeing to South Korea.

South Korea responded by firing towards North Korea.

In 2014, Kim Jong-un disappeared for more than a month, prompting rumors that he might have been deposed in a coup.

"This incident is a reminder of how vulnerable we remain to groundless rumours about North Korea", former United States government North Korea analyst Rachel Lee told AFP.