Kim’s charm offensive
North Korea’s leader, Kim Jongil, is directing the diplomatic and propaganda “charm offensive” under way as part of efforts to pave the way for the succession of his son, Kim Jong-un, to take over as supreme leader, according to a diplomatic source.
The charm offensive was launched following former President Bill Clinton’s trip to the reclusive communist state in August, which won the release of two imprisoned U.S. journalists at the time.
Since then, North Korea has loosened demands on economic exchanges with South Korea and has held talks with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, signaling an end to Pyongyang’s pique at Beijing’s support for United Nations sanctions against North Korea, which were imposed after its May underground nuclear test.
Kim Jong-il is believed by specialists to be suffering from cancer and has designated his second son, Kim Jong-un, as his successor. One sign of continuing preparations for the succession was the recent promotion of the son to the powerful National Defense Commission.
Meanwhile, the source provided new details on Kim Jongil’s extravagant lifestyle in a country that is facing widespread food shortages and severe poverty.
According to new intelligence provided by defectors from North Korea, Mr. Kim has been importing large amounts of expensive goods for his personal security and health care.
“Kim Jong-il personally owned 500 or so foreign luxury cars and continues to import luxury vehicles subject to the import ban imposed by U.N. Security