Dressed in jeans and blue suede loafers, the eldest son of North Korea's leader agreed to a quick interview outside a hotel elevator in Macau, saying he has no plans to defect to Europe and that his father is in good health, a South Korean newspaper reported Monday.
The son, Kim Jong Nam, has long been the focus of intense speculation about who will eventually take over the leadership of the reclusive, nuclear-armed state. Analysts will be watching for more clues to the power succession mystery Monday as North Korea convenes a rare second parliamentary session.
The session comes just days after South Korea officially asked the U.N. Security Council to punish North Korea for allegedly sinking a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors. Pyongyang has denied attacking the ship and said Sunday that taking the issue to the United Nations was an "intolerable provocation."
On Monday, the mass-market JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported that the North Korean leader's eldest son declined to answer questions about the sinking of the Cheonan warship.
"Cheonan? I do not know. Please stop," he was quoted as saying.
The paper said it tracked down Jong Nam in the southern Chinese casino city of Macau, where he had a late breakfast with a young woman at the Altira Hotel. The paper said it chatted with him at an elevator, and a photo showed the paunchy, unshaven son dressed in jeans, an untucked blue-striped dress shirt and blue suede Italian loafers.
Jong Nam, 39, is one of three known sons of 68-year-old North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. He had long been the favorite to succeed his father but reportedly fell out of favor due to his wayward lifestyle. In 2001, he was caught trying to enter Japan on a fake Dominican passport to visit Tokyo's Disney resort.
South Korean intelligence analysts now believe the father is to name his youngest son Jong Un as his successor. Unconfirmed media reports have said Jong Un has purged his older brother's supporters in North Korea and has plotted to assassinate him, prompting him to consider seeking asylum.
But Jong Nam dismissed the reports and said he didn't intend to flee his country, the JoongAng Ilbo said.
"I have no plans on moving to Europe. Why would I?" he said. "I could go there for a vacation, but I think you have only heard rumors."
He also said his father is "doing well," the paper reported.
Now that the Cheonan issue has been referred to the U.N. Security Council, the global body has several options. It can approve a resolution with or without new sanctions against North Korea. It might approve a weaker presidential statement calling for specific actions. Issuing a press statement is also an option.
The Security Council earlier imposed sanctions against North Korea after its two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. These include U.N. embargoes on nuclear and ballistic missile-related items and technology, on arms exports and imports except light weapons, and on luxury goods.
China, the North's closest ally, is opposed to new sanctions and has indicated that the more likely result will be a presidential statement, according to U.N. diplomats familiar with consultations. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the contacts have been private.