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N Korea leader 'visits factories'

Kim Jong-il visits a cosmetics factory in Sinuiju, North Korea. (Photo by Korean Central News Agency)
Kim Jong-il was shown visiting two factories in Sinuiju

North Korea has released undated photos of leader Kim Jong-il visiting factories, amid continuing speculation about the state of his health.

State news agency KCNA said Mr Kim had offered workers praise and guidance at the cosmetics and machine factories.

South Korean and US officials say Mr Kim suffered a stroke in August, but North Korean officials deny he is ill.

A number of photos have been released recently, though experts have questioned the authenticity of some.

Mr Kim, who is 66 and reportedly suffering from heart disease and diabetes, has not been seen at key events in recent months.

But in the latest in a series of photos apparently meant to show that Mr Kim is in good health, KCNA published several photos of him said to be on an official visit.

Some were said to show him standing outside a building at the cosmetics factory, while others showed him near an orange bulldozer at the engineering plant.

Mr Kim praised the "high quality" of the toilet soap, toothpaste, cream and lotion produced at the cosmetics factory, and the "persevering and tireless efforts" of the workers, KCNA reported.

Kim Jong-il visits the Rakwon Machine Complex in Sinuiju, North Korea. (Photo by Korean Central News Agency)
North Korea has recently released a series of pictures of its leader
Though the photos were undated, Mr Kim praised workers at the Rakwon Machine Complex for meeting its quota for this year "as of the end of October", the agency said.

Both factories are in the western city of Sinuiju, on the border with China, the agency said.

Mr Kim's reported illness comes as international negotiations continue over North Korea's nuclear programme.

North Korea said last year it would give up its nuclear programme in return for aid and diplomatic concessions, but progress towards dismantling its Yongbyon nuclear reactor has been patchy.

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