Speculation is growing about the fate of Kim Jong-un. If he dies, here's what is likely to happen next.
Speculation about Kim Jong-un's health is growing after reports he underwent a previous surgery.
The rumours were first reported by CNN after the 36-year-old North Korean dictator missed the celebration of his grandfather's birthday on April 15. He had been seen four days before that at a government meeting.
We don't yet know whether these reports are credible. Kim keeps a tight control on information coming in and out of the hermit nation, and any absences from official state media often spark speculation about his health.
Monitors in South Korea have so far been unable to confirm whether his health is in jeopardy.
But if the rumours are true, what will it mean for the North Korean people, as well as neighbouring China and the US?
WHAT HAPPENS IF KIM JONG-UN DIES?
The US government has contingency plans in place in the event North Korean dictator should die after reports that his health was in jeopardy.
Sources discussed the plans but urged caution about the veracity of the reports, which claimed Kim is in bad shape after a cardiovascular procedure, according to the New York Post.
Those plans include the possibility of a mass-scale humanitarian crisis inside the hermit nation such as a famine, according to the report.
One official described a scenario in North Korea that could include millions of people facing starvation and a mass exodus of North Korean refugees into China.
Intelligence sources told Fox News that part of the plan would be to rely on neighbouring China to step in and help manage the situation in North Korea due to logistic challenges the US would face in providing humanitarian assistance from halfway around the globe.
Although North Korea has not made clear who would potentially succeed Kim, some experts believe his sister, Kim Yo Jong, would step in as nominal leader, according to the Sun in the UK.
The ambitious 31-year-old Ms Kim is the single most important figure in the North Korean regime after her brother, and is seen as key to keeping the Kim dynasty in power.
A less likely candidate is their elder brother Kim Jong-chul, who may finally choose to step out of the shadows.
He was overlooked by his father as he was deemed not politically savvy or strong enough to stand up to its enemies.
The 38-year-old was the third of Kim Jong-il's five children but was never seen as a likely ruler due to his "soft personality" and love of Eric Clapton.
Another candidate is the leader's current No 2, Choe Ryong-hae - who has become his "go to" man in recent years.
He didn't receive particular public attention until Jong-Il's death but was then a key asset in securing Kim Jong-un's leadership .
Others told Fox that North Korea could be ruled by the collective leadership of party elites, similar to the Soviet Union after the iron rule of Joseph Stalin.
HAS KIM'S ILL HEALTH BEEN CONFIRMED?
The Daily NK, a Seoul-based online news periodical run mostly by North Korean defectors, reported that Kim was recovering from his April 12 surgery at a resort country villa on the east coast, in a report based on a single source.
CNN also reported on his purported poor health, saying Kim has been in bad health because of heavy smoking, obesity and overwork.
But South Korea's Yonhap news agency said Tuesday the South's government has seen no unusual signs suggesting North Korean leader Kim was ill.
Presidential spokesman Kang Min-seok said nothing unusual had been observed in the North.
"There is nothing we can confirm with regard to Chairman Kim's alleged health problem," Kang said.
A senior presidential official said the leader was staying in a provincial region with close aides.
"No unusual signs have been found that can back up the alleged health problem," the official said.
"North Korea's Workers' Party, the military, the cabinet are not showing any special moves, such as an emergency alert."
Speculation about Kim grew since he skipped an annual visit to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun for the 108th birthday of his late grandfather, state founder Kim Il-sung, last Wednesday.
Talks between President Trump and Kim over North Korea's nuclear programme have been stalled since the pair met in June 2019 in the DMZ separating the two Koreas.
On Tuesday, US national security adviser Robert O'Brien told reporters at the White House that the administration was "watching reports closely".
"We are monitoring these reports very closely and as you know, North Korea is a very closed society, there is not a free press there, they are parsimonious with the information they provide on many things, including the health of Kim Jong-un," O'Brien said, adding that the US intelligence community and Defence Department were watching the situation.