North Korea has underwater nuclear facilities? Kim Jong Il a drug addict?

North Korea has underwater nuclear facilities? Kim Jong Il a drug addict?

Exhibit A in the case for not believing everything you read in the WikiLeaks cables is this September 2008 dispatch from the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai.

The cable, signed by the consulate’s Christopher Beede and titled "SHANGHAI SCHOLARS EXPRESS CONCERN OVER DELAY IN SIX-PARTY TALKS," looks to be a fairly ho-hum summary of a meeting with a group of Chinese North Korea-watchers.

But there’s one bizarre throwaway line (my emphasis):

According xxxxx, the nuclear declaration North Korea submitted in May was incomplete. xxxxx claims that critical information about secret underwater nuclear facilities located on North Korea’s coast. For this reason, a debate has emerged within the Chinese leadership over the merits of quick U.S. delisting, xxxxx continues. One camp believes that continued momentum in the Six-Party Talks is critical to their success, and has concluded that Washington must adopt a more flexible attitude. The other camp, however, has taken the incomplete nuclear declaration as evidence that the regime in Pyongyang is truly "a ticking time bomb," and regard Washington’s tough stance on verification as a potential opportunity to finally deal with a persistent regional irritant.

Say what? Secret underwater nuclear facilities? Has this Chinese scholar been watching too many Bond movies?

Yonhap, the South Korean news agency, quotes an anonymous Korean Foreign Ministry official dimissing the story as "hard to believe." The Chosun Ilbo, a conservative paper that will print almost anything that makes North Korea look bad, quotes another official flatly saying the cable "is not true."

That’s not all that’s in this particular cable, however. It also relays one Shanghai expert’s claim that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il "has a long history of recreational drug use that has resulted in frequent bouts of epilepsy and contributed to his poor health overall."