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Derailed: train full of gifts for Kim Jong-il's successor

A train packed with birthday presents for North Korea's leader-in-waiting Kim Jong-un was derailed this month in a possible act of sabotage, a Seoul-based radio station reported yesterday.

Open Radio for North Korea, a non-profit station which often cites sources in the reclusive, impoverished country, said the train, carrying gifts including televisions and watches, came off the rails on 11 December, near North Korea's border with China.

"The security service has been in an emergency situation because a train departing from Sinuiju and headed for Pyongyang derailed on 11 December," the radio station quoted a source in the security service in North Pyongan province as saying.

The city of Sinuiju is a North Korean trading gateway. "The tracks and rail beds are so old it is possible there was decay in the wood, or nails that secured the tracks could have been dislodged, but the extent of damage to the tracks and the timing of the incident points to a chance that someone intentionally damaged the tracks," the source said. "It's highly likely it was someone opposed to the succession of Kim Jong-un."

Little is known about Kim Jong-il's youngest son, who is in his mid-twenties. He was appointed to key military and government positions this year, suggesting that he is the chosen successor to his father. His birthday is believed to be 8 January.

His father appears to have lavish tastes. This month a Viennese court found an Austrian man guilty of selling luxury goods, including a yacht – believed to be destined for Kim Jong-il – in a deal worth ¤3.3m (£2.8m).