Seoul, April 14 (IANS/RIA Novosti) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has not been seen in public for two weeks, sparking speculation amid escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Yonhap news agency reported 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, it said.
An official at Seoul’s intelligence authority denied rumours of a coup against Kim, saying no unusual movement surrounding the North’s leader had been detected.
Another source specialising on North Korea, said Kim’s absence was 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 US last month further irritated the North Korea. Pyongyang has threatened to carry out a nuclear attack on the US mainland, as well as on US forces in the region.
Kim may appear in public 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 the same day, the report added.