North Korea's Kim Jong Il appears to be in "full control" of his country, National Security Adviser Jim Jones said Sunday, citing first-hand observations gleaned from former President Bill Clinton's rare mission to the communist nation.
Despite reports that Kim is ailing and indications that he is setting up his own succession, Jones told FOX News that he has not lost his grip on power.
"Preliminary reports appear that Kim Jong Il is in full control of his organization, his government," Jones said. "He certainly appears to still be the one who is in charge."
Kim, who may have had a stroke last year, appeared thinner in photos of the visit last week. The photos showed him standing or sitting next to Clinton at several stages of the visit.
Jones said Clinton and Kim talked for three and a half hours, and described the conversations as "respectful and cordial in tone."
He insisted that North Korea got nothing more out of the visit than the photo op, saying with "absolutely a straight face" that the United States granted no secret concessions in exchange for the journalists.
Jones said during the mission, Clinton and Kim talked about denuclearization and other topics. He said the North Koreans have indicated they would like a "better relation" with the United States -- Jones also expressed a willingness to join the North Koreans in direct talks so long as they also re-join international negotiations.
"They've always advocated for bilateral engagement. We have put on the table in the context of the talks we would be happy to do that if, in fact, they would rejoin the talks," he said.
So we have the Obama administration willing to hold direct talks with North Korea over its nuclear weapons if it first resumes international negotiations.