North Korea has accused its southern neighbour of hiring an agent to track President Kim Jong-il and suggested the man had planned an assassination attempt before being arrested.
The allegations come amid worsening relations between the divided Koreas and intense speculation about Mr Kim's health. He reportedly suffered a stroke and had brain surgery in August. The North's spy agency, the Ministry of State Security, issued the arrested man's family name and said he was trained by South Korea to gather information on Mr Kim's movements. He had been sent tracking devices "and even violent poison", the agency said in a statement read on television. The mission had been ordered by a South Korean intelligence organisation "to do harm to the top leader". South Korea's National Intelligence Service said it was checking the claim. In the past, the countries have tried to assassinate each other's leaders. North Korea has denied that Mr Kim, 66, was ill, churning out reports and photographs depicting him as healthy. On Thursday, the Korean Central News Agency said he had inspected a machine plant but did not say when he had done so.