North Korea's dictator Kim Jong-il is seriously ill and may only have a few months to live, a British newspaper reported, quoting a source within the family of the reclusive "Dear Leader" as saying.
"He does not have all that much longer to live and my sources say the doctors' diagnosis is that he will die before the end of the year," Prof Toshimitsu Shigemura, an expert on North Korea at Waseda University, told The Daily Telegraph.
"He is still being treated for the main problem, which is complications arising from his diabetes, and it had been expected that he could die as soon as this summer," Shigemura said, citing personal sources within Kim's extended family.
In fact, the latest speculation over the health of Kim has been triggered by his appearance on state television on Wednesday to mark the 15th anniversary of the death of Kim-Il Sung, his father and the man revered as North Korea's founder. He looked gaunt, his hair has thinned dramatically and he walked with a limp. It is believed that 67-year-old Kim suffered a serious stroke in August 2008 and that his recovery has been delayed by long-standing diabetes and heart disease.
Similar reports on Kim's health have been reported in the United States, with an official telling The Washington Times that the government estimates he has a year to live. "He has essentially lost the ability to decide policy now and that is being carried out by a collective leadership made up of the Politburo, the party and the military," he was quoted as saying.
There were no signs of a power struggle to become Kim's successor, he said, although there are suggestions that Kim Jong Un, his son and widely considered as being groomed to take over as heir, may not now get the post.