Page last updated at 06:59 GMT, Monday, 13 July 2009 07:59 UK

N Korean leader Kim 'has cancer'


Kim Jong-il appeared on television last week, looking gaunt

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has life-threatening pancreatic cancer, South Korean TV news channel YTN says.

Quoting unidentified sources from both South Korea and China, the report said the disease gives Kim Jong-il a maximum life expectancy of five years.

YTN said Mr Kim was diagnosed with the illness last year, about the same time he was reported to have had a stroke.

Mr Kim, 67, was seen last week looking gaunt and walking with a limp, fuelling more speculation about his health.

The rare public appearance was at a memorial on 8 July to mark the 15th anniversary of his father's death.

It has been widely reported that Mr Kim's third son, Kim Jong-un, is being groomed as heir, although Pyongyang has made no announcement.

Nuclear talks

The latest reports on the state of his health come as nuclear negotiators from China and South Korea opened talks in Seoul about how to handle the threat from the North.

The pancreas is a long gland below the stomach producing digestive enzymes and hormones
Tumours tend to produce few symptoms and the disease is often not noticed until well advanced
Equally common in men and women
Majority of cases occur in people over 70

The United Nations stepped up sanctions against the North after its nuclear and missile tests of May.

"What is important is that the two sides have frank and in-depth consultations," Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei was reported as saying by South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

He was meeting Wi Sung-lac, the South Korean special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs.

Mr Wu, who chairs the international talks on the North's nuclear programme, arrived in Seoul on Sunday. He had already visited Russia, the United States, and Japan which, with the two Koreas and China, make up the six-party negotiations.

These talks faltered last year when North Korea and the US could not agree on verification procedures to asses the full extent of the North's programmes.

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