12/20/2004, 00.00
NORTH KOREA
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Kim Jong-il's son escapes assassination attempt

The situation inside North Korea's leadership is increasingly confused.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Reuters) – Inside North Korea's leadership the situation seems more and more confusing and uncertain. Only now has it been reported that an attempt to assassinate Kim Jong-nam, son and possibly the successor of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, was foiled during a European trip last November.

Citing a source familiar with North Korean affairs, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said the failed plot had been planned by North Koreans favouring another of Kim Jong-il's sons as his eventual successor.

"Kim [Jong-nam] ran into an attempt to assassinate him during his visit to Europe in mid-November, but the Austria's intelligence agency had received a tip in advance and protected him," the source was quoted as saying.

South Korea's National Intelligence Service did not confirm the report.

Little is known about Kim Jong-il's family. He is said to have fathered three children with three different women. Kim Jong-nam, 33, is the eldest and the most probable heir.

For over a month, rumours have been flying around about possible changes in North Korea's top leadership after some witnesses reported that the Communist dictatorship had been undergoing re-styling over the last several months.

Sources in Washington have reported that China has sent 10,000 troops along its border with North Korea to be ready in case of Kim Jong-il's fall.

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