Sun, Oct 19, 2008 - Page 1 News List

N Korea prepares ‘important’ message

AFP , TOKYO

North Korea has ordered its diplomats overseas to get ready for an “important announcement” that may be related to the health of its reclusive leader Kim Jong-il, a Japanese newspaper said yesterday.

Pyongyang has told diplomats around the world to stay in one place and refrain from traveling, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported, quoting several unnamed sources familiar with North Korean issues.

The sources speculated the message could be related to North Korea’s relations with South Korea or the health of Kim, Japan’s best-selling daily said, adding that the announcement was expected in a few days.

Reports of Kim’s possible ­illness surfaced after he failed to appear at the country’s 60th anniversary parade on Sept. 9. South Korean officials have said he underwent brain surgery following a stroke around mid-August.

“We’ve heard the news. We are checking it,” a spokesman for South Korea’s National Intelligence Service said.

He declined to say whether the spy agency has learned of the news from Yomiuri or from a different source.

“After the report came out, nothing special has been detected, but we are closely watching the situation in North Korea,” a government official quoted by Yonhap news agency said.

North Korean state television a week ago aired photographs of Kim inspecting a women’s artillery base, although a US official doubted that the images were recent. Some reports said Kim suffered partial paralysis.

The Japanese report came as South Korea’s defense minister said he believed Kim remained in control of the government despite the reports of ill health but that the situation in the isolated country was unpredictable.

“Kim Jong-il has not been seen in public for a while now, but both Korean and United States intelligence services estimate that he still has control over his administration,” South Korean Minister of National Defense Lee Sang-hee told reporters in Washington.

Also See: N Korea steps up nuclear disablement: US

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