Speculation is rife that leader of Korea Kim Jong-il is seriously ill. This is a development that could trigger a power shift in Asia's only communist dynasty. But despite this uncertainty, all was quiet on the China-North Korea border.
Life remains quiet on September 11 in the border town of Dandong in northeast China, while rumors are rampant that the North Korean leader is seriously ill. Speculation grew after the reclusive 66-year-old, widely believed to suffer from debilitating illnesses, failed to appear at a parade on September 9 to mark the country's 60th anniversary since its founding.
A U.S. intelligence official said he might have suffered a stroke. The mystery surrounding Kim may have a negative impact on China, too. In a worst-case scenario, North Korea's transition could bring instability to the region and a wave of refugees into China. But on the Chinese side of the Yalu River, tour boats and trucks laden with cross-border trade were unruffled by the possible trouble.
The Chinese Communist Party's relations with North Korea were long characterized as being"as close as lips and teeth" after they fought side-by-side duringthe 1950-53 Korean War. The Chinese Communist Party is also a major aid donor to North Korea, which has great difficulty feeding its people. However, bilateral ties have soured since North Korea tested a nuclear device in 2006.
Kim has led communist North Korea for 14 years, under which the reclusive country has seen its economy shrink and its ballistic missile arsenal swell.