12/19/2008, 00.00
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Seoul denies claims it is plotting to kill Kim Jong-il

North Korea’s government accuses South Korea of plotting to find and kill its ‘Dear Leader’. Pyongyang also claims to have arrested unspecified “foreign agents” sent north to gather information about its nuclear programme.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – South Korea has denied allegations that it hired a secret agent to find North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s hideout in order to kill him. “This has nothing to do with us,” an anonymous South Korean official said, citing government sources, as he reiterated South Korea’s non-involvement in the affair.

Late last night the North Korean government announced that a plot to eliminate the ‘Dear Leader’ was uncovered. The Ministry of State Security said it arrested an agent trained in the south for the purpose of finding Kim Jong-il, who has not been seen publicly since last August.

“The (South's) organisation sent him speech and acoustic sensing and pursuit devices for tracking the movement of the top leader and even violent poison in the end,” the North Korean ministry said in a statement, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Without mentioning Kim’s name the press release said the “terrorist mission” was ordered by a South Korean intelligence organisation “to do harm to the top leader,” a euphemism used in the past to indicate the North Korean dictator or other prominent figures of the regime.

The news agency said that the alleged agent crossed the border at the beginning of the year in order to poison the ‘Dear Leader’ on orders of the South Korean government. Called Ri, the would-be “agent” under arrest is said to be a North Korean trained in South Korea.

Pyongyang’s statement also alleged that unspecified foreign agents were arrested for trying to gather soil, water and leaves to gain information on Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

The accusations come amid worsening of relations between the two Koreas.

The expulsion of South Korean workers from a joint industrial zone in Kaesong, the launch by South Korean activists of balloons carrying anti-regime messages into North Korea and the latter’s controversial nuclear programme have disrupted the intra-Korean dialogue so doggedly developed in the last few years

In the end the North Korean regime’s self-imposed isolation does not bode well for a solution to the crisis any time soon.

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