Taiwan’s intelligence head grilled over Kim Jong-un health remark

Kim Jong-un (center)/Image taken from rodong.rep.kp)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan’s intelligence chief has defended his widely cited assessment last Thursday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was sick a day before the dictator made an appearance at a May Day celebration.

As rumors were widely circulating that Kim had died or in a vegetative state, National Security Bureau (NSB) Director-General Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) publicly told legislators on April 30 that “Kim is sick” and noted that his assessment was based on information obtained by the NSB and not his personal opinion.

On Friday, however, North Korean media released unverified images of a smiling Kim making his first public appearance in 20 days as he celebrated the completion of a fertilizer factory near Pyongyang, ending the absence that had triggered rumors of his demise.

At a hearing held by a legislative committee Monday, Chiu was panned by Kuomintang Legislator Chen I-hsin (陳以信) for making public comments on a foreign head of state.

Chen said NSB officials in the past usually responded to legislators’ queries about sensitive issues in private after legislative hearings.

National Security Bureau Director-General Chiu Kuo-cheng (right) and Defense Minister Yen De-fa (left)

Chiu argued that he did not volunteer the assessment but was answering a legislator’s question.

“With legislators continuing to ask, I had to give an answer … I did nothing wrong. How could I be wrong?”

Asked by Chen about the authenticity of the video and photos showing Kim’s appearance, Chiu immediately replied, “(If) you want me to brief you in your office, then I’ll report to you in private after this session.”

Chiu was also asked whether his intelligence about Kim turned out to be misinformation and whether the NSB had real intelligence related to North Korea, Chiu told legislators that it indeed had a good grasp of the situation in North Korea.

He said intelligence is not about answering a “yes or no” question but for use in making judgments.

Another lawmaker challenged him again on whether the intelligence about Kim he revealed was true, Chiu said he did not want to argue, but insisted that whether Kim’s illness was serious or not, he was in fact ill.

Chiu also responded to the way Kim looked on the released video, saying it was “pretty strange.”