MOSCOW, July 13 (RIA Novosti) - South Korea's YTN said on Monday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has pancreatic cancer, while a leading dissident said North Koreans are fleeing the country amid severe food shortages.
The ailing leader has made just two public appearances since reportedly suffering a stroke last August. Most recently Kim was shown on the country's Central Television on July 8 looking gaunt at a ceremony in Pyongyang to mark the death of his father, Kim Il-sung.
The YTN report, which cited unnamed Chinese and Korean intelligence sources, comes days after Japan's TBS television said Kim had been diagnosed with a "serious disorder" of the pancreas.
According to TBS he is receiving treatment at his home in Wonsan, on North Korea's southeastern coast.
Meanwhile, a prominent North Korean defector and one of the leaders of the Committee for the Democratization of North Korea, told Japanese media that about 300,000 soldiers had been deployed along the border with China to prevent a mass exodus of North Koreans to China due to a severe food shortage in the impoverished communist country.
According to a UN report on North Korea last year, at least 9 million people, or about one third of the population are in desperate need of food aid.
Despite being in dire economic straits, the North has withdrawn from six-nation nuclear talks, also involving the United States, Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea, that could have resulted in substantial economic and food aid to the communist nation.
North Koreans are now facing two options - either to flee the country or face the threat of starvation, Kang Cheol-Hwan said.
He urged Japan, the U.S. and South Korea to apply pressure on China not to deport North Koreans crossing the border as the mass exodus could lead to the fall of the current communist regime.
The 67-year-old North Korean leader is expected to hand over power to his youngest son Kim Jong-un.
Kim Jong-un, now 25, was born to Kim Jong-il's third wife, Ko Yong-hi, who died of breast cancer at the age of 51 in 2004. According to Yonhap, the youngest of Kim's three sons, Jong-un was educated at the International School of Berne and is a fan of NBA basketball.
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New ties between Russia and Japan would mark not only a breakthrough in their relations but also a significant shift in Northeast Asia’s political dynamic. Both are secondary players in a region overshadowed by an increasingly assertive China, which has not hesitated to push against the boundaries of its neighbors.