North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has not appeared in public for about 20 days, a report said Thursday, spurring speculation he has assumed a low profile ahead of a possible nuclear test that would rattle the region.
The reclusive Kim has often dropped out of sight during critical moments when diplomatic tensions are high only to resurface when tensions wane.
South Korea's Chosun Ilbo reported Thursday that Kim may be currently laying low for fear of U.S. military action or to test possible international repercussions of the country's announcement Tuesday that it will test a nuclear weapon.
Kim dropped from sight for about a month in 1998 before North Korea test-fired a long-range missile that flew over Japan, the newspaper said.
In 2003, he wasn't reported to have ventured out for seven weeks after the country quit the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Kim disappeared for about a month after his country test-fired a series of missiles in July.
More recently, the North's official Korean Central News Agency last reported on Kim's public activity on Sept. 15, saying he visited the scenic Diamond Mountain area near the border with South Korea. He made five previous appearances that month, including two visits to military units. More...