North Korea's Leader Missing from Public Eye for Two Weeks - Report
SEOUL, April 14 (RIA Novosti) - North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un has not been seen in public for the past two weeks, sparking speculation amid escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Yonhap news agency reported on Sunday.
Kim has been absent from the public eye since April 1 when he presided over an annual parliamentary session. His absence was not unusual in the past but this month's disappearance comes at a time when Pyongyang is expected to launch a mid-range ballistic missile, the agency said.
According to Yonhap, an official at Seoul's intelligence authority denied rumors of a coup against Kim, saying no unusual movement surrounding the North's leader had been detected.
Another source specializing on North Korea told Yonhap that Kim's absence is part of the North's 'psychological warfare that could grab attention from South Korea and the United States.'
Tensions rose sharply on the Korean Peninsula in December after North Korea tested a Taepodong 2 missile and again in February when it carried out its third nuclear test. The UN hit back with sanctions, and the start of joint military drills between South Korea and the United States last month further irritated the North, which threatened to carry out a nuclear attack on the US mainland, as well as on US forces in the region.
Chang Yong-seok, senior researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies of Seoul National University, told Yonhap that Pyongyang was unlikely to scale down its provocative stand against the US.
'Rather than attempting to change the current situation, North Korea is likely to keep raising tensions, while there is a possibility of slightly adjusting the level of tensions,' Chang said.
According to Yonhap, Kim may appear in public on Monday, when Pyongyang marks the birthday of its founder, Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of the current leader. Seoul's military officials have said that a missile launch by Pyongyang could happen on Monday.
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