N Korea's Kim Jong Il
Not Seen In 43 Days
Absence of North Korean Leader and 61
Commanding Military Sparks
Fears of Imminent War

By Kim In-gu

The North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has not appeared in public for 43 days, observers said, triggering speculation that he putting his country in a war posture. Mr. Kim was absent from the Supreme People's Assembly meeting on Wednesday; his last public appearance was Feb. 12 at the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang. Experts on North Korea say Kim's withdrawal is deliberate and that North Korea has gone into a semibelligerent state since the outbreak of the Iraqi war. Sixty-one other top-level officials were absent from the assembly meeting.
One expert, Cho Myung-chul at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, who was a professor at Kim Il Sung University before defecting to the South, said that the 61 absentees would be commanding officers and that it seemed North Korea was in a state of war. Another North Korea expert said that North Koreans would take Kim's absence from the assembly meeting to mean that they are under an emergency situation...



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