x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Kim attends military art performance

North Korea's absolute leader Kim Jong Il has appeared in public at a military art performance, according to the country's state news agency.

SEOUL // North Korea's absolute leader Kim Jong Il has appeared in public at a military art performance, the communist country's state news agency reported amid continued speculation about his health. Mr Kim and top military officers attended the 32nd military art festival, featuring army and navy performers, the country's official Korean Central News Agency said in a dispatch from Pyongyang yesterday.

Mr Kim "waved back to the enthusiastically cheering performers and congratulated them on their successful presentation," the KCNA said, adding that Mr Kim told the soldiers that art could make them better fighters. However, the report - monitored early today in Seoul - did not say when and where Mr Kim watched the performance. South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles relations with North Korea, was not immediately available to comment today.

South Korean and US officials suspect Mr Kim suffered a stroke and underwent brain surgery in August. North Korea has denied the speculation, releasing a slew of media reports and photographs portraying Mr Kim as active and healthy. Yet rumours remain, mainly because all the North Korean reports and photos have been undated. Some photos showed lush, green trees at a time when the Korean peninsula was awash in autumnal foliage.

Mr Kim's health is of keen interest because he rules the isolated, nuclear-armed nation with absolute authority and has not publicly named a successor. *AP