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South Korea Checking Reports of Coming North Korean Announcement

South Korean authorities say they are checking reports Saturday that North Korean diplomats around the world have been ordered to await a major announcement from their government.

A Japanese newspaper reported that Pyongyang told diplomats to stop all travel and wait for what it called "an important message" that could come within a few days.

The report in the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper suggests the announcement may concern North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's health or a major change in policy toward South Korea.

South Korea's defense minister, Lee Sang-hee, said Friday he believes that Kim Jong Il remains in control of the North Korean government, based on U.S. and South Korean intelligence.

South Korean intelligence sources have speculated Mr. Kim suffered a stroke in mid-August after he failed to appear in public for more than a month. Still photographs of Mr. Kim appeared in North Korean media last week but experts questioned whether the still photos were recent.

Earlier this week, North Korea threatened to cut off ties with South Korea, citing what it says is a "hostile policy" towards Pyongyang.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.