North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has appeared in public for the first time after 20 days of absence, North Korean state media says.
According to KCNA news agency, Kim Jong-un cut the ribbon at the opening of a fertilizer factory.
The agency adds that people at the factory “broke into thunderous cheers of hurrah” when he appeared on May 1st.
The reported appearance – Kim Jong-un’s first since an event on state media on April 12 – comes amid global speculation over his health.
However, the latest reports from North Korean media could not be independently confirmed.
State media later released images that it said showed Kim Jong-un cutting a ribbon outside a factory.
Asked about Kim Jong-un’s reported reappearance, President Donald Trump told reporters that he didn’t want to comment yet.
According to KCNA, Kim Jong-un was accompanied by several senior North Korean officials, including his sister Kim Yo-jong.
He cut a ribbon at a ceremony at the plant, in a region north of Pyongyang, and people who were attending the event “burst into thunderous cheers of ‘hurrah!’ for the Supreme Leader who is commanding the all-people general march for accomplishing the great cause of prosperity”, KCNA says.
Kim Jong-un said he was satisfied with the factory’s production system, and praised it for contributing to the progress of the country’s chemical industry and food production, the state news agency adds.
Speculation about Kim Jong-un’s health began after he missed the birth anniversary celebrations of his grandfather, state founder Kim Il-sung on April 15.
The anniversary is one of the biggest events in the North Korean calendar, and the North Korean usually marks it by visiting the mausoleum where his grandfather lies. Kim Jong-un had never missed this event.
Claims about Kim Jong-un’s ill-health then surfaced in a report for a website run by North Korean defectors.
An anonymous source told the Daily NK that they understood Kim Jong-un had been struggling with cardiovascular problems since last August “but it worsened after repeated visits to Mount Paektu”.
This led to a chain of reporting by international media on a single-sourced story.
News agencies then began to run with that claim, and it was all they had until some reports emerged that intelligence agencies in South Korea and the US were monitoring the claim.
Then came a more sensational headline in US media that Kim Jong-un was in a critical condition after heart surgery.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared to stoke the rumors on April 29, by saying US officials “hadn’t seen” Kim Jong-un recently.
However, a statement from the South Korean government, and sources at Chinese intelligence – speaking to the Reuters – said this was not true.
Kim Jong-un went missing for 40 days in September 2014, after attending a concert. He reappeared in mid-October, using a cane.
State media never explained where Kim Jong-un had been. However, South Korea’s intelligence agency said he probably had an operation on his left ankle stemming from problems with a cyst.