Washington: South Korean and US intelligence services failed to pick up any clues even after 48 hours of Kim Jong-il`s death last Saturday, demonstrating an extensive intelligence failure, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
The North Korean leader died on a train at 8.30 a.m. Saturday in that country. Kim was succeeded by his son Kim Jong-un.
Asian and American intelligence services have failed to pick up significant developments in North Korea even earlier.
Pyongyang built a sprawling plant to enrich uranium that went undetected for about a year-and-a-half until North Korean officials showed it off in late 2010.
The North also helped build a complete nuclear reactor in Syria without tipping off Western intelligence.
Highly sensitive antennae along the border between South and North Korea pick up electronic signals. South Korean intelligence officials interview thousands of North Koreans who defect to the South each year.
And yet remarkably little is known about the inner workings of the North Korean government. Pyongyang, officials said, keeps sensitive information limited to a small circle of officials, who do not talk.
On Monday, the Obama administration held urgent consultations with allies but said little publicly about Kim`s death.
Senior officials acknowledged they were largely bystanders, watching the drama unfold in the North and hoping that it does not lead to acts of aggression against South Korea.
Some speculate that the younger Kim might serve in a kind of regency, in which the real power would be wielded by military officials like Jang Song-taek, Kim Jong-il`s brother-in-law and confidant, who is 65.
At 10 am local time Monday, even as North Korean media reported that there would be a "special announcement" at noon, South Korean officials shrugged when asked whether something was afoot, the newspaper said.
The last time Pyongyang gave advance warning of a special announcement was in 1994, when they reported the death of Kim`s father, Kim Il-sung, who also died of heart failure.
South Korea was caught completely off guard by the elder Kim`s death, which was not disclosed for 22 hours.
"This shows a big loophole in our intelligence-gathering network on North Korea," Kwon Seon-taek, an opposition South Korean lawmaker, told reporters.