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☞ Issue 120
글씨크기 크게 글씨크기 작게 기사 메일전송 기사 출력
Statements about Kim Jong-il’s health reflect mixed views

China reports Kim is convalescing, while U.S. appears cautious and N. Korea defensive about rumors the leader is ill

관리자 (2008/09/21 22:44)  

Chinese, U.S. and North Korean officials are making more concrete statements about rumors that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is suffering ill health.

During a visit to Japan, Liu Hongcai, deputy chief of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department, said in a September 16 meeting with New Komeito Party leader Ota Akihiro that Kim’s illness might not be as serious as reported in the media. He said it was impossible to know the exact situation, but Kim might need to convalesce for the time being.

This essentially confirmed that while Kim’s condition is not serious, his health is not good, either. The Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department has served the role of liaison channel between North Korea and China, visiting Pyongyang to conduct behind-the-scenes coordination each time the six-party talks reach a peak, so its statement has credibility.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a September 18 press conference in London that the United States was watching the North Korea situation, but was currently uncertain about how sick Kim was or what conditions were.

U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow said in an interview with YTN yesterday that it would be a little dangerous to speculate on whether the current situation in North Korea is a crisis or not, reflecting an atmosphere of caution in the United States. He said that in North Korea’s major bodies of power, the Workers’ Party of Korea and the military leadership, they were saying the situation was still stable.

In Panmunjom for working-level talks on economic and energy aid related to the six-party talks, the deputy director of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s North America desk, Hyon Hak-bong, grew agitated when asked by a reporter about Kim’s health, calling the rumors a sophism by bad people who wished North Korea ill.

Kim, who has not engaged in public activities for 36 days, is conducting “letter politics.” He sent happy birthday telegrams to the presidents of Syria and Russia on September 10 and 14, respectively, and on September 19, the North Korean media reported he sent a thank-you letter to the medical team of the Gangwon Province People’s Hospital. Kim is trying to show both North Koreans and the outside world that he is conducting state affairs as normal.

Meanwhile, a 132-person team from the Korean Sharing Movement will visit Pyongyang on Saturday afternoon to attend the completion ceremony for a medical supplies factory, using the direct route over the West Sea. Some 13 newspaper and magazine reporters were initially scheduled to accompany them, but were refused entry by North Korea; the only exception were six reporters from the broadcast media. This visit is drawing attention as it comes two months after large-scale civilian visits to the North were suspended following the July shooting at the Mount Geumgang (Kumgang) resort and is happening after rumors of Kim’s illness broke.
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