Kim Jong-il, the leader of North Korea, is suffering from pancreatic cancer and may die from the disease, a South Korean television station has reported, citing intelligence sources.
Kim, 67, looked gaunt and frail during a public appearance last Wednesday at a memorial for his father Kim Il-sung.
The report, from Yonhap Television News, was attributed to unnamed Chinese and South Korean intelligence sources.
It comes after a report in the Japanese media over the weekend that Kim has a “serious pancreatic disorder”.
Kim’s health appears to have steadily declined since the end of last year, when he was widely believed to have suffered a stroke.
Since then, he has only made a handful of public appearances and has seemed in worse physical condition on each occasion.
His youngest son, Kim Jong-un, has been widely tipped as his successor, and there have been widespread reports that senior army officials and diplomats have been asked to pledge their allegiance to the younger Kim.
Kim Jong-il’s poor health has also raised questions about the nuclear test and missile launches that North Korea has conducted in the past three months.
Analysts have suggested that the military actions are intended to pave the way for succession and to reinforce the position of the younger Kim.
Kim Jong-il 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 Defense Commission, but has never taken the title of president.
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