N.K. negotiator denies speculation on Kim`s health as `sophism`

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PANMUNJOM, Sept. 19 (Yonhap) -- A chief North Korean negotiator on Friday denied mounting speculation on North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's health as 'sophism' by those who trying to obstruct inter-Korean ties.

The comment was made by Hyon Hak-bong, the North's chief delegate to the working-level inter-Korean talks that opened earlier Friday on energy aid to the communist state under the six-party nuclear disarmament talks.

"That's sophism by evil people wanting to break up unity between the two Koreas," the official said.

Kim Jong-il's conspicuous absence from a parade marking his country's 60th anniversary on Sept. 9 had prompted rampant speculation on the leader's health.

South Korea's main intelligence agency and a key presidential aide had said that Kim suffered a stroke in the middle of last month, but that he has recovered well enough to brush his teeth on his own and to stand with some assistance. Some local news reports said his condition is more serious and that he may be unable to rule the country.