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Kim Jong-Il: 'mad as cheese'

Patten spills beans at security conference

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Pity poor Kim Jong-Il. Back at the dawn of the decade he was all ready to be bezzie mates; having visits from Madeleine Albright, talking food aid, expecting Big Willie Clinton himself to drop by at any moment.

For an idea of how things have changed since then, try this from the CNN archives dated May 14 2001: "North Korea comes in from the cold".

But due to events beyond his control, everything changed. The world's only Stalinist regime unwittingly became the third leg in a Tripod of Evil with a violent nationalist state and a fundamentalist Islamic republic.

We heard about Kim's heartbreak at RSA Europe from Chris Patten. According to Patten, one of the few Western politicians to have actually met Kim, the Korean leader was baffled by the change in emphasis when the Bush administration took control of the White House. Even in a pre-9/11 climate, Kim was sensitive enough to notice his new American buddies weren't calling anymore.

He just couldn't understand what he'd done wrong, the poor wee lad.

During a seven hour audience with the world's most dangerous borderline midget, Patten had to explain at some length that there had been an election in the US. He said: "It was just not part of his world view."

That conversation was part of an EU effort to reach out to North Korea in May 2001. As EU foreign affairs commissioner, Patten visited Kim with then Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson.

Despite his quarters sporting an ensuite bathroom that would make your average indoor tennis court seem pokey, Patten had little to recommend the North Korean capital as a holiday destination. "Pyongyang is not a fun city...you don't see many stag parties."

Despite his rudimentary grasp of democracy (no letters about the 2000 election, please) and current status as an oft-ridiculed hermit, Kim was apparently well up on global affairs. Accompanied by a lackey carting a stack of briefing papers, Kim had all the facts of the geopolitical scene at his fingertips.

For a post-Iraq British statesman, Patten has somehow maintained rare clout on the world stage. Since 9/11 he has campaigned for constructive dialogue with Tehran and Pyongyang on uranium enrichment.

Indeed, we reckon the Dear Leader's nuclear noodlings are a cry for attention: to borrow from the Reverend Al Green, Kim Jong-Il is just tired of being alone.

We would of course qualify that with Patten's own assertion that Kim is "as mad as cheese". ®

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