North Korea's Kim makes first public appearance in month

North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnNorth Korea fires two more missiles, calls US sanctions a 'provocation' Biden strategy on North Korea under pressure over missile launches Kim Jong Un's latest missile hit its mark: US-South Korea relations MORE made his first appearance in over a month, visiting a new city being built near the country's border with China, Reuters reports.

State media reported that Kim visited Samjiyon, which is being built into a “socialist utopia” near the spiritual center of the country’s revolution, the newswire noted.

"He said Samjiyon has turned into an example of a mountainous modern city under socialism and a standard of rural development thanks to the workers' steadfast struggle despite the unfavorable northern environment," state media KCNA reported on Tuesday, per Reuters.

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Kim's regime is seeking to transform Samjiyon into an economic hub to give the impression that the country is thriving despite economic isolation due to its nuclear program, The Washington Post reported.

This is the first reported appearance of the 37-year-old leader in over a month, amid speculation about his health and weight loss.

During his visit, the state-run official Korean Central News Agency reported that Kim said the city’s buildings reflect the “lofty loyalty, strong will and sweat of our people” and the “iron will” of North Korea to “achieve prosperity our own way,” the Post reported. 

Samjyon is the official birthplace of Kim's late father Kim Jong Il, and is located near Mount Paektu, the spiritual center of the communist revolution. 

Kim's visit to comes as he is set to mark the 10-year anniversary of his taking over the country after the death of his father in December 2011. 

The construction of the city was originally supposed to be completed in time for the 75th anniversary of the ruling party’s founding in October 2020.

According to Reuters, KCNA said Kim's trip was to inspect the third and last phase of construction, set to be completed by the end of this year after delays caused by economic sanctions and the COVID pandemic.