North Korean official Kim Yo Jong has not made a public appearance since July, but speculation continues to grow over her position in government. File Photo by Jorge Silva/EPA-EFE
Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Kim Yo Jong was reportedly absent from an expanded meeting of the politburo of the Korean Workers' Party this week, during which her brother Kim Jong Un called for improved health measures and preparedness for a typhoon.
Reports of Kim Yo Jong's absence comes after weeks of speculation the North Korean leader's sibling is the second most powerful official in Pyongyang. Rumors regarding Kim Jong Un's health have elevated his sister's profile.
The Wednesday issue of the Rodong Sinmun indicates Kim Yo Jong may be taking a back seat amid the rumors, however. The North Korean newspaper reported top North Korean officials Pak Pong Ju, Choe Ryong Hae and Ri Pyong Chol were present. Among North Korean women officials, the names of Hyon Song Wol and O Chun Bok were mentioned. Kim Yo Jong was not included on the list.
Seoul's spy agency said Aug. 20 that Kim Yo Jong was "governing by appointment," and suggested the North Korean politician was on near-equal footing with her brother.
That claim has come under dispute in Seoul, where the defense and unification ministry said Kim Jong Un may have allocated some of his responsibilities. His sister does not share in his authority, however, Seoul officials said.
Kim Yo Jong was last seen at a public event marking the 67th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Agreement on July 27, seated alongside top military brass.
North Korea has defied U.S. demands for denuclearization, but the Trump administration says its goal remains the "complete, verifiable and irreversible" denuclearization of North Korea.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Wednesday at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii that CVID remains the goal. Esper said diplomacy is the "best path forward," according to Yonhap.
Esper also said the United States remains prepared on the ground with South Korea.