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N. KOREA'S AILING KIM JONG II SUFFERS SETBACK

South Korean intelligence indicates that ailing North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has suffered a serious setback and has been hospitalized, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

The report in the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper cited an unnamed government official in saying intelligence obtained Sunday suggested "a serious problem" with Kim's health. The report did not elaborate.

Kim, 66, reportedly suffered a stroke and underwent brain surgery in August. North Korea, however, denies he is ill.

South Korea's National Intelligence Service and its Unification Ministry said today they were aware of the Dong-a report but could not confirm it.

The report came a day after Japan's prime minister told lawmakers in Tokyo that Kim probably is in the hospital, though "not unable" to make decisions as North Korea's leader.

The chief of the National Intelligence Service had told lawmakers Tuesday that Kim was "not physically perfect" but still able to rule the country.

Speculation about the reclusive leader's health grew when he missed a September military parade marking North Korea's 60th anniversary. He then disappeared from public sight for two months.

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