September 9, 2008

North Korean Dictator suffers stroke?

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il has apparently suffered a health setback, "possibly a stroke," a US intelligence official said today, noting he had not appeared at a 60th anniversary parade.

While it has not been confirmed, it does appear that Kim Jong-Il has had a health setback, possibly a stroke. Kim has not been seen the last couple of weeks in public. US intelligence is "pretty confident" of its assessment of a health setback.

Kim failed to appear at a massive military parade in Pyongyang Tuesday, marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the secretive Stalinist state. The North Korean leader has never before missed the parade celebration.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack declined to comment on what intelligence officials were saying about Kim's health and on his absence from the parade.

"Obviously, this is a very opaque regime, so I'm not in a position to offer any comment to you," McCormack said.

He said he could comment only on North Korea's failure to press ahead with arrangements for verifying the internationally-agreed disablement of its nuclear weapons program.

"We don't necessarily have a good picture into the decision-making processes of the North Korean regime, but we can see very clearly outputs or lack of outputs," McCormack said.

"And thus far we have, over the past several weeks, we have not seen outputs in terms of their agreement to a verification regime," he said.

"So that's where our focus is on," he said.

He again acknowledged that North Korea has also taken steps toward restarting the Yongbyon nuclear reactor by putting equipment that had been in storage back to former positions.

However, he said there is no sign it is operational.

North Korea last week announced that it has stopped work on disabling Yongbyon, and would consider rebuilding the plants, because Washington has failed to drop it from a terrorism blacklist.

The Yongbyon reactor is at the heart of Pyongyang's decades-old nuclear weapons drive and produced the plutonium for its October 2006 atomic test.

Last year North Korea sealed a landmark deal with the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia to abandon all its nuclear weapons in exchange for badly needed energy and economic aid and security and diplomatic benefits.

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