Tokyo, Dec.2 : A previously unknown son of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il may be emerging as a contender to replace him when he dies, according to reports. "Until now the in-fighting appeared to have been between two factions representing Kim's two sons, Kim Jong Nam and Kim Jong Chol, but there are now reports of another son coming forward," The Telegraph quoted Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor of international relations at Tokyo's Waseda University and an expert on North Korean affairs, as saying.
"The reports say he is in his 30s and has not been mentioned previously as he has an important role within the military," he said.
If he does indeed have the support of the military, it will give this son - whose name remains unknown - a powerful support base.
Speculation over who will succeed Kim in the communist world's only hereditary regime has been provoked by ongoing reports that the 66-year-old "Dear Leader" has suffered at least one and probably two strokes that have left him seriously debilitated.
According to Professor Shigemura's sources inside the reclusive country, Kim's health continues to deteriorate and he has only months to live.
That has triggered a power struggle that has embroiled the Workers' Party, the military and his powerful family.
Other key players include Chang Song Taek, a high-ranking party official who supports Kim's eldest son, Kim Jong Nam, although his claim was weakened when he was arrested in Japan in 2001 travelling on a forged passport.
The third son, Kim Jong Chol, 28, is believed to have his father's blessing to succeed him.