AFP - Reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il is alive and in control of his country despite reports that he is ailing, the commander of the US Pacific command, Admiral Timothy Keating, said Thursday.
"He's alive and he remains in control of the North Korean government," Keating told a press conference, adding he had no particular details about the 66-year-old North Korean leader's medical condition.
"I think he's relatively in control of his faculties," Keating said.
Since reports began circulating in September that Kim had suffered a severe medical setback, possibly a stroke, Pyongyang media have reported numerous trips by the leader and released dozens of undated photographs of him.
Kim's health is the subject of intense interest since he has not publicly nominated any successor and has a history of diabetes and heart disease.
He was last seen in public in August, but it was not until September 9 when he failed to appear at military parade for the communist regime's 60th anniversary that a flurry of reports of his ill health began.
US and South Korean intelligence believe he suffered a serious health crisis in mid-August, and South Korean officials have said he underwent brain surgery but was recovering.
Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso said in late October that Kim was probably in hospital but still capable of making decisions.
The Tokyo Broadcasting System, citing a US intelligence source, reported November 9 that Kim had a second stroke in late October, affecting his speech and causing him difficulty moving his left hand and leg.
The North Korean government, which vehemently denies the reports of Kim's illness, released photographs Wednesday of Kim touring a library in the city of Kanggye in the northern province of Kagang.
He is shown in a fur cap and heavy winter coat, watching people use computers at the library.
Earlier, undated photographs have shown him visiting military units and watching a football match, appearing in good health with a full head of hair. In one set of photographs he was shown clapping his hands.
But the authenticity of the photographs have been viewed with skepticism outside of North Korea, keeping doubts alive about Kim's condition and his degree of control over the country.