South Korea and China have played down reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is seriously ill.
A Seoul-based online paper, Daily NK has claimed that Kim, who has not been seen in public for 10 days, was being treated at a private villa following heart surgery.
CNN, meanwhile, cited an anonymous US official as saying that Washington was “monitoring intelligence” suggesting that Kim was in “grave danger”.
A spokesperson at South Korea’s presidential Blue House said there was nothing to confirm rumours about chairman Kim Jong-un’s health, and no special movement has been detected inside North Korea as of now.
Speculation about Kim’s health grew after he missed an event to mark the anniversary of the birth of his grandfather – and the country’s founder – Kim Il-sung – on 15 April.
Kim allegedly underwent heart surgery at a hospital in the county of Hyangsan on the country’s east coast on 12 April.
The 36-year-old was continuing to receive treatment at a villa at the Mount Kumgang resort, it was reported.
Some observers speculated that Kim had been limiting his public appearances this month as a precaution due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It is not the first time that Kim’s failure to appear in public has triggered speculation about his health. In 2014, he was missing in action for nearly six weeks before reappearing with a cane. Days later, South Korea’s spy agency said he had undergone surgery to remove a cyst from his ankle.
Meanwhile, North Korea has insisted that it has not discovered a single case of Covid-19, but experts and defectors have challenged the claims.