Sunday, October 19, 2008

South Korea intelligence says no unusual signs in North Korea

South Korea's government and private analysts questioned media reports that North Korea was poised to make an important announcement possibly concerning the health of its leader, Kim Jong Il, or a power shift in the communist nation.

Kim has been the focus of intense speculation since he disappeared from public view in mid August. U.S. and South Korean officials suspect he suffered a stroke and had brain surgery. North Korea has flatly denied there is anything wrong with its 66-year-old leader.

On Sunday, Japan's Sankei newspaper reported that the Japanese government had information North Korea would issue an "important announcement" on Monday and that it could be about Kim's death or a government change induced by a coup. North Korea will also ban foreigners from entering the country starting Monday, the Sankei said.

The report came a day after Japan's largest newspaper, the Yomiuri, said North Korea had ordered its diplomats abroad to be on standby for an important announcement.

South Korean Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyeon said it has not detected any unusual signs across the heavily fortified border with North Korea such as a strengthened security posture or an increase in telephone calls. The National Intelligence Service — South Korea's main spy agency — also said it could not confirm the Japanese reports.


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