Fears over the apparent ailing health of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, stoked by the fact that he skipped a key meeting for only the third time ever, were proven to misplaced as he urged his country to "prepare for war".
The pint-sized despot had already been missing from the public eye for 35 days when he decided to shelve a visit to the Politburo agriculture meeting, a key summit to discuss the pressing food issues in the country.
The Mirror reported that the 35-day stretch is one of his longest ever out of the public eye, and suggested that he could be laying low before an upcoming military parade to mark its 75th anniversary.
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However, he made a triumphant return at his ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Military Commission meeting on Monday (February 6), where he appeared in fine fettle, putting the world bang to rights while flexing his military muscles.
The country’s official Korean Central News Agency reported that he urged his army to display “matchless military strength” in the face of US tensions.
The meeting, attended by military top brass, heard discussions about bringing “great change” in the force, including “constantly expanding and intensifying the operation and combat drills” and “more strictly perfecting the preparedness for war”, the agency said.
Even still, this is only the third time Kim has swerved the agriculture key summit, with the other two absences in June and September last year, as per NK News.
Rules were changed in January 2021 which allowed the Politburo meetings to still go ahead without Kim as long as he gave his authorisation.
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His absence from public view matched the 35 days at the end of 2021 and the only longer spell was 40 days in 2014.
But theories that he is otherwise engaged could have held water as the parades come amid high tensions between North Korea and the US, along with its western allies.
In other words, Kim has a lot to deal with. Especially since he is fresh off the back of his country saying it was prepared to counter US military moves with the “most overwhelming nuclear force”.
North Korea warned that the expansion of the United States’ military exercises with rival South Korea is pushing tensions to an “extreme red line.”
Kim could showcase his growing arsenal of nuclear-capable missiles at the military parade – scheduled for this week – in Pyongyang.
Experts say Kim’s nuclear push is aimed at forcing the United States to accept the idea of North Korea as a nuclear power so it can negotiate badly needed economic concessions from a position of strength.
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