North Korean leader may have suffered stroke: reports
Speculation is swirling that North Korea's leader has suffered a stroke and is gravely ill after he failed to show up at a major national parade in Pyongyang on Tuesday.
There was no sign of Kim Jong-il, 66, at the parade marking the 60th anniversary of North Korea's founding and the country's state media was silent about his absence.
Footage on state television showed images of lower level officials on a viewing stand, watching an event that was less bombastic than in other key anniversary years. Marching militia members and a few military vehicles circulated by a large portrait of Kim, but there were no signs of the tanks and missiles usually put on parade.
"There is reason to believe Kim Jong-il has suffered a serious health setback, possibly a stroke," a Western intelligence official told the Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Another official said reports of Kim's possible health problems were based in part on intelligence gathered by several countries, while a senior U.S. official told the AP that rumours had been circulating for weeks about the state of Kim's health and his control over North Korea's government.
"What we do know is that he was not at the military parade," the U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity about the administration's internal assessment. "That is quite unusual and reinforces a lot of what we've been hearing."
While officials spoke on condition of anonymity, the U.S. government has said little publicly. White House press secretary Dana Perino would only say Tuesday that the administration is watching the situation closely.
"There's nothing I can provide for you now," she told reporters in Washington.