Officials in South Korea are calling for caution amid reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be ill, emphasising that they have detected no unusual movements across the border in the north.
At a closed-door forum on Sunday, South Korea's Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul, who oversees engagement with the North, said the government has the intelligence capabilities to say with confidence that there was nothing unusual happening.
Rumours and speculation over the North Korean leader's health began after he did not appear at a key state holiday on April 15. He has not been seen in public since.
South Korea media last week reported that Kim may have undergone cardiovascular surgery or was in isolation to avoid exposure to the new coronavirus.
However, they did carry reports that he had sent a message of gratitude to workers building a tourist resort in Wonsan, an area where some South Korean media reports have said Kim may be staying.
"Our government position is firm," Moon Chung-in, the top foreign policy adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, said in comments to news outlets in the United States.
"Kim Jong Un is alive and well. He has been staying in the Wonsan area since April 13. No suspicious movements have so far been detected."
If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand.