North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il may be gravely ill, perhaps the victim of a stroke, U.S. and other Western officials said Tuesday after he failed to appear for a major national parade. If so, it could jeopardize the already troubled international effort to get his nation to abandon nuclear weapons.
Kim’s absence from a military parade for the country’s 60th anniversary lent credence to reports that the man North Koreans call the “Dear Leader” had been incapacitated during the past few weeks.
The 66-year-old Kim, who has been rumored to be in varying degrees of ill health for years, has not been seen since mid-August. Though he appears rarely in public and his voice is seldom broadcast, Kim has shown up for previous landmark celebrations.
“There is reason to believe Kim Jong Il has suffered a serious health setback, possibly a stroke,” one Western intelligence official said. A senior U.S. official said fresh rumors had been circulating about Kim’s health and his control over North Korea’s highly centralized government.
A former CIA official with recent access to intelligence on North Korea said that even before Tuesday the agency was confident that reports of a health crisis were accurate.
The officials spoke anonymously to summarize sensitive intelligence.
It’s still too early to know if this is accurate. But if it is, I honestly don’t know how to feel about it.