North Korea leader Kim Jong-un seen in public for the first time in 23 days

After more than three weeks’ absence, Kim Jong-un made his first public appearance by holding a meeting to discuss how North Korea can improve its nuclear capabilities.

The North Korea leader was last seen at the opening of a fertiliser plant on May 1 – an appearance that world media instantly questioned – but had not appeared in the public eye since then.

The dictator made his appearance to preside over a military meeting, where North Korea discussed new policies for increasing its “nuclear war deterrence”, state news agency KCNA reported Sunday.

The report did not specify what the nuclear deterrence entailed, but said that “crucial measures” were taken at the meeting “for considerably increasing the firepower strike ability of the artillery pieces of the Korean People’s Army”.

“Set forth at the meeting were new policies for further increasing the nuclear war deterrence of the country,” KCNA said.

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Discussions at the Central Military Commission meeting also centred on “putting the strategic armed forces on a high alert operation” in line with the “building and development of the armed forces of the country”.

If the meeting, the date of which was not given, occurred in the last several days, it marks Kim’s first public appearance in almost three weeks, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.

KCNA also revealed Kim mentioned the need to mend “unreasonable machinery and compositional defects” of the military so it could be better prepared when the country needs to defend against “foreign forces”.

Photos from the meeting also show Kim in front of a presentation board and using a long white stick to make a point.

In April, rumours swirled about Kim’s health after he was conspicuously absent from a mid-month celebration for the birthday of his grandfather, only to turn up weeks later at the opening of a fertiliser factory.

Unconfirmed reports then emerged that the North Korea leader had died following heart surgery.

Ji Seong-Ho, a North Korean defector, backed the claims telling South Korean media that he was “99 per cent sure” Kim had died.

Officials were quick to douse those rumours, with South Korean parliament member Kim Byung-Keetelling reporters on May 6: “The National Intelligence Service (NIS) assesses that at least he did not get any heart-related procedure or surgery.

“He was normally performing his duties when he was out of the public eye. At least there’s no heart-related health problem.”

News of North Korea’s nuclear discussions came after a report Friday in The Washington Post that US President Donald Trump’s administration had discussed holding the first US nuclear test since 1992 as a potential warning to Russia and China.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the US-based Arms Control Association, told the paper that such a decision would likely “disrupt” negotiations with Kim, “who may no longer feel compelled to honour his moratorium on nuclear testing”.

With wires

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