Bill Clinton's doctor, who accompanied the former U.S. president to Pyongyang last month, has told the U.S. government that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is still recovering from what appears to have been a stroke last year but is in stable condition, sources in Washington say.
Diplomatic sources said Roger Band, a professor of emergency medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania who regularly checks Clinton's health, accompanied the former president on a visit to the North and got a close look at Kim. Brand had been briefed by U.S. government officials, the sources said.
The U.S. administration was looking for concrete information about Kim's health after rumors that he suffered a stoke in August last year, asking Band to look closely at Kim's teeth, facial color, hair, scalp, speech, movements of hands and feet, and weight. Band was by Clinton's side in a meeting with Kim that lasted over three hours. Based on Band's observation, the U.S. government has reportedly concluded that Kim's condition has significantly improved.
In preliminary contacts with the North, aides insisted that Clinton travel with his doctor on overseas trips. The North reportedly did not oppose this. The U.S. administration now believes that by allowing Band to accompany Clinton, Kim sought to publicize his good health to the world and may have taken advantage of the opportunity to dispel rumors that he is at death's door.
Adm. Timothy Keating, the commander of U.S. Pacific forces, indirectly confirmed the story in a speech he delivered at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Tuesday. Clinton's trip to North Korea was "great intelligence," he said.
Keating said Kim was "upright" and appeared to be comfortable and able to carry on reasonable discussions. But he cautioned that this does not mean it is clear what Kim's succession plans are.