North Korean leader Kim Jong Un looked noticeably slimmer in photos released by state media this week.
Kim’s continued weight loss, which has been noticeable for months, has fanned rumours that he is having health issues.
Authorities have insisted Kim is healthy and is simply eating less “for the sake of the country,” which is grappling with severe food shortages.
Kim was photographed during a key ruling party meeting during which he usually makes important New Year policy announcements.
The Workers’ Party’s Central Committee met to decide policies meant to “guide the struggle of our party and people … to the next stage of victory,” according to the official Korean Central News Agency. The agency did not carry any remarks by Kim.
The meeting comes as Kim marks 10 years since assuming power after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in 2011.
North Korea’s economy has been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic, international sanctions over its nuclear and missile arsenals, and mismanagement, however, experts believe Kim’s grip on power is not being seriously challenged.
The impoverished country is facing a food crisis amid the Covid-19 pandemic and after being hit by severe flooding in recent years.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated North Korea is short 860,000 tonnes of food this year alone, the equivalent to approximately 2.3 months of food use.
Pyongyang in July ordered citizens to start producing their own food to prepare for a shortage that could last as long as three years.
And Kim in October told his citizens they should expect to eat less food until the country reopens its border with China, in 2025.
North Korea and China closed their border and suspended all trade in January 2020, cutting off food imports and North Korean farmers’ access to fertiliser.