Kim, 67, is believed to be recuperating after reportedly suffering a stroke in August last year.
But skepticism about his health still lingers, with photographs released by state media earlier this year showing a much leaner Kim with pale complexion.
"As we have said before, we maintain our position on being cautious about Chairman Kim Jong-il's health and his physical condition," ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said in a briefing, pressed about a local news report that suggested his health is deteriorating.
"At this time, there is nothing that we have heard about whether his health condition is becoming worse," he said, "We can just say his public, official activities have been reported last week as well."
Kim, apparently driven by health concerns, is said to have named his third and youngest son, Jong-un, as his successor. North Korean media have not confirmed the selection, but
Many analysts link
Kim's alleged stroke raised a sense of crisis and insecurity among the country's power elite, Hyun said, and they have concluded that the succession and a nuclear weapons program are essential in keeping the monarchistic regime afloat even after Kim dies.
"As long as Kim Jong-il continues to be in poor health, with Kim being the central force buttressing the regime, North Korea will continue to stick to the hardline posture in its overall domestic and foreign policy so as to ward off any possible impact to the regime's security," Hyun, now a think-tank analyst, said at a forum hosted by the North Korea Intellectuals Society, a group of North Korean defectors in Seoul.
North Korean 3G Network Hits 19,000 Subscribers (Yahoo News)
Koryolink started operating on December 15 last year and signed up 1,694 customers by the end of last year, with a further 17,500 sign-ups during the first quarter, Orascom Telecom said in its first quarter results announcement.
The network generated modest earnings of US$312,000 for its operators in the first quarter, before accounting for interest payments, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Orascom did not disclose whether the network made a profit or a loss for the period.
Koryolink achieved the EBIDTA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) results on consolidated sales of US$4.4 million, said
The service is open to anyone in
The handsets, which are localized versions of Chinese models, cost between US$400 and $600 and the cheapest subscription costs 850 North Korean won per month.
That works out to about US$6 at the official exchange rate, but about 24 cents at the current black market rate used by many citizens and traders. Calls on this tariff are charged at 10.2 won per minute. The most expensive calling package costs 2,550 won per month and call rates are 6.8 won per minute.
Cheo offers service through a single retail shop in
Orascom focuses on under-developed cellular markets and runs networks in several countries. Its operations include
N Korea criticizes US missile defense for Hawaii (Associated Press)
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he ordered the deployment of a ground-based, mobile missile intercept system and radar system to Hawaii amid concerns the North may fire a long-range missile toward the islands, about 4,500 miles away.
The paper also accused the
The commentary, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, said the North will bolster its nuclear arsenal in self-defense.
The North routinely accuses the
Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been running high since the North defiantly launched a rocket in April and conducted an underground nuclear test last month, prompting U.N. Security Council sanctions.
In what could be the first test of the U.N. sanctions, an American destroyer has been tracking a North Korean ship sailing off
The Kang Nam, which left a North Korean port on June 17, is the first vessel monitored under U.N. sanctions that ban the regime from selling arms and weapons-related material. The resolution requires member nations to request permission to inspect the cargo of ships suspected of carrying banned goods.
He asserted earlier that the
These are an intolerable declaration of actions to escalate the confrontation and reckless outbursts agitating a war as they fully reflect the
It is the invariable
Precisely for this reason the
Moves to reorganize armed forces including the creation of a U.S.-south Korea CAC are now pushed forward in real earnest.
The moves stepped up by the
What should not be overlooked is the fact that authorities of the
They even touted what they called "extended deterrence," asserting that when
To talk about coping with the DPRK's "threat" means, in essence, rhetoric intended to justify
The reality patently proves that the threat of war to the peninsula always comes from the
U.S. May Act Against N.K. Counterfeiting (
Dick Nanto, CRS specialist in foreign affairs, was quoted as saying by Voice of America that
"It could be a good excuse for financial sanctions against
Nanto, who in 2006 wrote a report titled "North Korean counterfeiting of
He wrote in the report that, "Bush Administration policymakers reportedly are divided between those favoring a negotiated settlement and those favoring an approach of tightening economic sanctions and other measures designed to undermine support for the ruling regime."
The local newspaper quoted a source in
Nanto was quoted as telling VOA that in addition to the currency counterfeiting, the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874 issued after the North's second nuclear test last month could provide grounds for
U.S. Ambassador to Seoul Kathleen Stephens recently said that
Nanto said that the Obama administration was not necessarily expected to impose sanctions identical to those imposed in 2007 which froze accounts of the Banco Delta Asia bank in Macau based on charges that the bank assisted
Meanwhile, the latest United Nations resolution penalizing
U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg will lead the group, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Friday.
Goldberg was the top envoy to
He has been appointed to lead an interagency effort to implement U.N. Security Council resolutions 1874 and 1718,
The Obama administration is seeking the maximum application of U.N. resolutions on North Korea that impose measures such as stepped-up inspection of suspect air and sea cargo and restrictions on loans and money transfers.
Goldberg will stop in
U.S. Sets Up N. Korea Sanctions Taskforce (Chosun Ilbo)
U.S. President Barack Obama appointed former
That brings to three the Obama administration's envoys of some description on North Korean affairs. In the early days of his presidency, Obama had two, with Stephen Bosworth named special representative for North Korean policy, in addition to U.S. special envoy on North Korean affairs Sung Kim. Bosworth was apparently to look after general issues and Kim as chief
Goldberg will take part in the making of
Whether the responsibilities of the four will overlap and lead to confusion remains to be seen.
Likely Destination of N Korean Ship Often Used for Weapons Deliveries (Chiang Mai
The Myanmar International Terminals Thilawa (MITT), believed to be the destination of the Kang Nam 1, a North Korean cargo ship being tracked by the US Navy, has often been used for deliveries of weapons, according to sources at the facility.
The Kang Nam 1, which left a North Korean port on June 17, is believed to be carrying weapons, missile parts or possibly even nuclear materials.
"There are two reasons to use Thilawa," said an MITT operator. "First, it is not too close to
The international multi-purpose container port,
According to other MITT employees, the facility has often been used for deliveries of weapons since it was built in the mid-1990s.
"Cargo ships carrying many kinds of weapons from
Normally, the source explained, the ships are offloaded around midnight to avoid attracting attention. Then, around 2 a.m., convoys of trucks deliver the weapons to a military depot at Intaing, about 25 km north of
"When cargo ships carrying military equipment dock at the port, naval personnel based near Thilawa take over port security and coordinate the unloading of the ships," he said. "No unauthorized personnel are allowed near the port when cargo ships carrying weapons dock here."
On Wednesday, officials from the Myanmar Port Authority, which operates under the Ministry of Transport, met with the Thilawa port authorities. It is believed that the meeting was related to the imminent arrival of the Kang Nam 1.
"We don't know when the ship will dock and we haven't received any instructions concerning its berthing schedule," said an MITT employee, adding that this was normal procedure for handling ships carrying weapons.
The source also said that employees of MITT had been instructed not to speak to exiled media about the Kang Nam 1.
On Thursday, the Burmese state-run newspaper, The News Light of Myanmar, reported that the government had denied that the Kang Nam 1 was heading for
The report said that the Burmese junta had not received any information about the Kang Nam 1, but was expecting another North Korean ship, the MV Dumangang, to arrive in
The USS John S McCain started following the Kang Nam 1 soon after it left port last week. The USS McCampbell is now shadowing the ship, which is being monitored under UN sanctions imposed earlier this month following