Kim mak­ing de­ci­sions

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security -

A se­nior U.S. of­fi­cial says North Korean leader Kim Jong-il suf­fered some kind of in­ca­pac­i­tat­ing ill­ness but the to­tal­i­tar­ian leader re­mains in the de­ci­sion-mak­ing chain.

The of­fi­cial, who is knowl­edge­able on events in North Korea, said re­ports were cir­cu­lat­ing weeks be­fore Mr. Kim failed to ap­pear at a 60th-an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion on Sept. 9, al­though his ab­sence at the event was the ma­jor in­di­ca­tor that North Korea’s lead­er­ship was not func­tion­ing nor­mally. “That’s an event he had to be at,” the of­fi­cial said.

Nev­er­the­less, the ill­ness is not se­ri­ously af­fect­ing Mr. Kim’s rule over North Korea, the of­fi­cial said. “This is a man who is not in­ca­pac­i­tated; this is a man who is still very much aware of what’s go­ing on. And the sense you have is ei­ther he’s in-putting, or he’s made enough pol­icy de­ci­sions prior to his ill­ness so that ev­ery­thing is just mov­ing for­ward.”

The of­fi­cial said all in­di­ca­tions are that the ill­ness has not af­fected any de­ci­sions com­ing out of Py­ongyang, in­clud­ing how to deal with the six-na­tion nu­clear talks.

Mr. Kim is said to have suf­fered a stroke and has not been seen in pub­lic since mid-Au­gust. Sev­eral for­eign doc­tors were dis­patched to Py­ongyang and are be­lieved to be treat­ing him.

“We see North Korea con­tin­u­ing since the mid­dle of Au­gust, when Kim Jong-il dis­ap­peared from the scene,” the of­fi­cial said. “There’s a med­i­cal is­sue that’s af­fect­ing him. But there has not been any man­i­fes­ta­tion of any med­i­cal is­sue af­fect­ing him that seem­ingly has im­pinged on their abil­ity to make de­ci­sions on is­sues of crit­i­cal im­por­tance to North Korea’s well-be­ing.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, there are no un­usual mil­i­tary ac­tiv­i­ties in North Korea, such as height­ened alert sta­tus, nor have any un­usual po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties by the rul­ing Korean Work­ers’ Party been de­tected, the of­fi­cial said.

The of­fi­cial said Kim Jong-il has three sons who are pos­si­ble suc­ces­sors. The old­est son, Kim Jong-nam, 37, spends most of his time out­side the coun­try, mainly in China. Two younger sons, Kim Jong-chul, 27, and Kim Jong­woon, 24, are work­ing for the Korean Work­ers’ Party.

“But there are no in­di­ca­tions that any of the sons have been groomed to re­place his fa­ther,” the of­fi­cial said. “The sons are there, and they’ve got to be part of an equa­tion [on suc­ces­sion] down the road, al­though we’re not looking at suc­ces­sion now be­cause there is no sense that Kim is ter­mi­nally ill and will not be at the helm to make de­ci­sions.”

Mr. Kim’s power cen­ters in­clude the Na­tional De­fense Com­mis­sion, made up of se­nior gen­er­als, and the Korean Work­ers’ Party. One pow­er­ful of­fi­cial in the rul­ing cir­cle is Kim Ok, a woman who serves as his per­sonal sec­re­tary and whom the of­fi­cial de­scribed as a very in­flu­en­tial con­fi­dante.” An­other key of­fi­cial close to Mr. Kim is brother-in-law Chang Sung-taek, who is an im­por­tant and ex­pe­ri­enced ad­viser.

“We know the key play­ers who would be work­ing with Kim dur­ing this pe­riod of ill­ness,” the of­fi­cial said, adding that there are no signs at this point of any emer­gen­cies. The of­fi­cial said there are “gaps” in what is known about North Korea, con­sid­ered one of the most closed so­ci­eties on earth.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.