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North Korea and South exchange gunfire after Trump hails Kim Jong Un’s return

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends the completion of a fertiliser plant north of Pyongyang
KCNA/via REUTERS
Kim Jong Un is once again posing for North Korean state media.
  • Steve Mollman
By Steve Mollman

Weekend editor

Kim Jong Un is back, Donald Trump is happy about it, and gunfire has been exchanged between North Korea and South Korea.

South Korean officials reported today that the North Korean leader did not undergo surgery during his absence from public life, which lasted nearly three weeks and fueled speculation about his health, possible demise, and succession plans. They also said that multiple gunshots from North Korea were fired at a rural guard post Sunday, and that South Korean soldiers fired off rounds in return. No casualties were reported.

The gunfire exchange occurred in the Demilitarized Zone, which (despite the name) is one of the world’s most militarized borders. Such incidents in the DMZ are rare—the last one occurred in 2017, according to the BBC.

On Saturday morning, North Korea state media showed images of Kim touring a fertilizer factory. Analysts looking for clues of surgery noted a dark mark on his wrist not seen before, possibly a sign of a cardiovascular procedure. Later that day, US president Donald Trump hailed his return, tweeting, “I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well!” Trump has often referred to Kim as a friend, and he’s gushed over North Korea’s real estate potential. North Korea has featured Trump on its stamps.

The gunfire incident, which happened shortly after the US president’s tweet, is a timely reminder that South Korea (a US ally) and the nuclear-armed North are still, technically, at war with each other.

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