13 July 2009

Kim's cancer 'life-threatening'

A frame grab taken from footage released by KRT on July 8, 2009 this year shows Kim Jong-il during the 15th anniversary of the death of his father and country's founder Kim Il-sung in Pyongyang. Photo: Reuters TV (SMH)

(News.com.au) - Kim Jong-il 'has pancreatic cancer'

* Health report based on foreign spy agencies
* Kim had looked unwell at memorial last week
* Cancer is life-threatening, sources say

NORTH Korean leader Kim Jong-il has pancreatic cancer and the illness is life-threatening, South Korean broadcaster YTN said.

YTN's claim was based on information gathered by Chinese and South Korean intelligence sources.

Mr Kim's health is one of the most closely guarded secrets in the reclusive communist state.

At 67, he was widely thought to have suffered a stroke last year, but there has never been official confirmation.

Mr Kim looked gaunt during a public appearance last Wednesday at a memorial for his father and state founder Kim Il-sung.

Mr Kim's health raises questions about succession in Asia's only communist dynasty and who will control its nuclear weapons programmes.

The North conducted its second nuclear test on May 25, which was met by UN sanctions aimed at cutting off the impoverished state's lucrative arms trade and one of its few sources of hard cash.

South Korean officials have said the North's recent military grandstanding, that also included missiles launches and threats to attack the South, was linked to efforts to pave the way for Mr Kim's youngest son to take over.

Mr Kim took power in 1994 when his father died at the age of 82.

He assumed the title of general secretary of the Workers' Party and chairman of the National Defence Commission, but has never taken the title of president.

From correspondents in Seoul, South Korea