VARIOUS: South Korea and China on alert for possible leadership change in North Korea after speculation that Kim...
- Title: VARIOUS: South Korea and China on alert for possible leadership change in North Korea after speculation that Kim Jong-il suffered a stroke
- Date: 11th September 2008
- Summary: (ASIA) DANDONG, LIAONING PROVINCE, CHINA (SEPTEMBER 11, 2008) (REUTERS) WIDE OF BROKEN BRIDGE (WHICH WAS PART DESTROYED DURING THE KOREAN WAR) PEOPLE ON BROKEN BRIDGE PEOPLE ON BROKEN BRIDGE VARIOUS OF TRUCK CROSSING BORDER BRIDGE CHINESE FLAG NORTH KOREAN FACTORY VARIOUS OF NORTH KOREAN EMBANKMENT VARIOUS OF YALU RIVER WITH NORTH KOREA ON THE OTHER SIDE
- Reuters ID: LVAAMRLW78C8E34WUXOLEQ4PP248
- Duration: 00:01:00
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- Topics: International Relations
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- Story Text: South Korea's president convenes an emergency meeting of his cabinet to prepare for possible changes in North Korea after speculation its leader Kim Jong-il has suffered a stroke. Meanwhile the border area between North Korea and China remains quiet as the region awaits more news about Kim's health.
South Korea's president convened an emergency meeting of his cabinet to prepare for possible changes in North Korea after speculation its leader Kim Jong-il had suffered a stroke, an official said on Thursday (September 11).
Kim, aged 66, has led communist North Korea for 14 years under which the reclusive country has seen it anaemic economy shrink, its ballistic missile arsenal swell and United Nations sanctions imposed due to its nuclear programme and first atomic test two years ago.
"The president commanded us to be prepared in advance with precise countermeasures so that we can respond properly without chaos under any circumstances. So we are ready for it," Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyeon told a news briefing.
The emergency cabinet meeting was late on Wednesday (September 10).
In front of Seoul's Defence Ministry, a small group of right-wing activists staged a rally against the South Korean Army's policy not to use the terminology "main enemy" for North Korea.
"If our military doesn't perceive North Korea as the main enemy, it's quite concerning how our military will fend off North Korea. Amid some rumours about Kim Jong-il's illness, we should be well prepared and strengthen our security," said anti-North Korea protester Bong Tae-hong.
Kim Jong-il, long-suspected of suffering from a chronic illness, was conspicuously absent from a parade on Tuesday (September 9) to mark the 60th anniversary of the communist state.
South Korean local media continuously ran video of Kim attending big military parades and North-South Korean summits to show the difference in his health year by year.
U.S. and South Korean intelligence officials said earlier that Kim had suffered a stroke. The South's intelligence said Kim was recovering well, while North Korean officials reportedly said there was nothing wrong with their leader.
The statement said the South had spotted no unusual troop movements in the North but South Korean President Lee Myung-bak had asked his government to step up plans for possible contingencies.
The North has threatened to turn the capitalist South to dust and considers Japan and the United States as mortal enemies.
Meanwhile life remained quiet on Thursday in the border town of Dandong in northeast China.
The mystery surrounding Kim may leave a frightening question mark for China as well, for which a worst-case scenario would be the collapse of the North, which China has been afraid could bring instability to the region and a potential wave of refugees crossing its border area.
But on the Chinese side of the Yalu River, tour boats and trucks laden with cross-border trade, plied their business unruffled by the possible trouble.
China's relations with North Korea were long characterised as being "as close as lips and teeth" after they fought side-by-side during the 1950 to 1953 Korean War.
It is also a major aid donor to a country whose economy has shrunk drastically in recent years and which has great difficulty feeding its people, but bilateral ties soured after North Korea tested a nuclear device in 2006.
Kim's illness comes as the North appears to be backing away from an international nuclear disarmament deal and analysts said progress would almost certainly be scuttled if there was a leadership struggle.
In a move that could heighten tension, North Korea is nearing completion of a missile range capable of shooting off rockets that could hit all of South Korea and most of Japan and American media cited analysts as saying.
Kim's health and possible successor are two of Pyongyang's most closely guarded secrets.
South Korea said in a 2006 intelligence report that when Kim died, it expected the North Korean government to lapse into a brief coma and then hunker down with top military officials battling for power, perhaps in partnership with one of Kim's three known sons.
Kim, whom state media calls the Dear Leader, was groomed for years to succeed his father and the North's founding president Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994.
During his time in power, Kim has crushed dissent and placed an enormous distance between himself and any potential rival, which means there is no clear heir.
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- Embargoed:26th September 2008 13:00