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Wikileaks Cable Cites N. Korean Defections, Succession Woes

A diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks discloses previously unreported defections by senior North Korean officials and cites problems with the North Korean succession plan early this year.

The cable is dated January 14, 2010 and purportedly was sent to Washington by the U.S. ambassador in Seoul, Kathleen Stephens. In the cable, Stephens reports on a recent conversation between an embassy official and Yu Myung-hwan, who served as South Korea's foreign minister until September of this year.

The cable says Yu confided that "an unspecified number of high-ranking North Korean officials working overseas had recently defected" to South Korea. It links the defections to an "increasingly chaotic" situation in North Korea following an unpopular effort at currency reform.

The cable quotes Yu saying the currency fiasco had caused "big problems" for the North Korean regime and that a planned transfer of power from supreme leader Kim Jong Il to his youngest son Kim Jong Un was "not going smoothly."

The cable also quotes Yu predicting that Kim Jong Il would visit China early this year seeking economic aid and political support. Mr. Kim in fact visited China twice this year, in May and again in August.