Hong Kong: The whereabouts of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il's eldest son, once seen as the natural successor in the communist dynasty, has become a subject of intense speculation since his father's death.
   
Kim Jong-Nam is believed to have lived a life of reclusive luxury, mainly in the Chinese gambling hub of Macau, since he was caught in 2001 entering Japan on a fake passport saying he wanted to take his family to Disneyland.
   
Apparently banished by his father and North Korea's secretive ruling elite, Jong-Nam, 40, has watched from afar as his young half-brother, Kim Jong-Un, has been groomed since 2009 to succeed his father as the nation's leader.
   
Jong-Nam's movements since the announcement of his father's death on Monday could give clues about the machinations in Pyongyang during the sensitive transition of power in the impoverished, nuclear-armed state.
   
But Macau-based observers say he has remained below the radar.
   
"He's moving here and there. It has been hard to track him down," said Ricardo Pinto, publisher of a magazine, who keeps an eye on Jong-Nam's comings and goings in the former Portuguese colony.
   
"It appears that he lives at his house sometimes, and sometimes he stays at different hotels. There's no indication where he is living now."
   
Jong-Nam's last public appearance was in January this year, when he gave an interview to Japanese newspaper Tokyo Shimbun at an unspecified location in southern China.
   
He told the paper that Kim Jong-Il, who took power in 1994 after the death of his father, North Korea's founder and "great leader" Kim Il-Sung, was against a third-generation succession.
   
But the late leader had anointed Jong-Un -- aged in his 20s and relatively inexperienced -- to ensure national stability, he said.
   
"Hereditary succession did not happen even under Chinese chairman Mao Zedong," said Jong-Nam, sporting funky brown plastic glasses, a light pink shirt and a black jacket.
   
"(Heredity succession) does not fit socialism and my father was against it. I understand that it was done in order to stabilise the framework of the nation," he said, warning that instability in North Korea would disrupt the "surrounding region".
   
While most Kim-watchers agree Jong-Nam has used Macau as a base since his aborted Disneyland adventure, he is also reported to have stayed in Beijing and to have regularly visited Austria, France and Thailand, as well as North Korea.

(Agencies)