Kim Jong-un’s death risks sparking power-struggle to control North Korea’s nuclear regime

Last weekend rumours swirled that the 36-year-old. whom has ruled the secretive state since 2011, had died or was in a vegetative state. Despite the release of pictures purportedly showing him in public for the first time in 20 days on Friday, speculation about the Supreme Leader’s health is ongoing. While the latest pictures appear to show him in reasonable health, a puncture mark on his wrist may indicate he did indeed undergo surgery recently.

It looks like a right radial artery puncture which is often used for access to the coronary arteries for stent placement

US-trained medical professional

Tell-tale marks on Kim Jong-un’s wrist suggest he may have had heart surgery to insert a stent, a medical expert has suggested.

One US-trained medical professional told NK News: “It looks like a right radial artery puncture which is often used for access to the coronary arteries for stent placement.”

A stent is a tiny tube inserted to keep a blocked artery open, and is a typical alternative to heart bypass surgery.

The mark was likely to be about a week old, he suggested, and was probably not the result of an intravenous drip.

Speaking to Sky News, Adrian Foster, Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Leeds University, said: “The original report was that there was a minor procedure on his heart.

“NK News has picked up a mark on his wrist that wasn’t there on April 11.”

The speculation highlights ongoing uncertainty in relation to Kim’s health, with the 36-year-old noticeably overweight and shown to be smoking in the latest footage. 

Roy Calley, a journalist who has visited North Korea on numerous occasions, yesterday told Express.co.uk Kim was “not a fit human being”, while Professor Steve Tsang of the School of Oriental and African Studies said he believed Kim’s absence was likely the result of a medical procedure.

With his health in the spotlight, 38 North’s analysis looked at whether there was any type of succession plan in place – with his sister, Kim Yo-jong, heavily tipped to be the frontrunner.

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The report, written by Chris Steinitz, Ken Gause and Elizabeth Yang, says: “The systematic rise and positioning of Kim Yo-jong signals the development of a continuity of governance plan, although the details of this plan remain unclear”

It could be that Kim Yo-jong was being groomed as his successor, or alternatively that she would plays a prominent leadership role, perhaps as some sort of regent.

The authors add: “What is clear is that by virtue of the responsibilities her brother has granted her, she will have a seat at the table and is likely to be the person responsible for protecting the Kim family equities.

Nevertheless, it adds: “If Kim Jong-un were to fall seriously ill or die, where it happens and who has situational awareness makes all the difference.

“If it were to occur in public, the fallout would be hard to control and a power struggle would likely be inevitable.

“If it were to occur in private, however, those around Kim could begin to make preparations.”

It would be comparatively easy to keep the regime on track if Kim was merely incapacitated, in much the same way a small coterie of close family and aides did when Kim Jong-il, Kim’s father, suffered a stroke in 2008.

However, the report says: “If Kim Jong-un dies, however, the situation would become much more precarious.

“An initial leadership group would likely be set up that includes those above, as well as members from the Party, military and internal security.

“Whether someone like Kim Yo-jong would sit atop this structure or would assume the role of Supreme Leader is unclear.

“It is also possible that some male member of the Kim family could be put forth as a figurehead for legitimacy purposes, instead of Kim Yo-jong.”

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