North Korean leader Kim Jong II has a secret network of escape tunnels underneath Pyongyang for times of emergency, a former senior North Korean official said.
Hwang Jang Yop, a former secretary of the North's Workers' Party, told a South Korean radio programme that some of the secret tunnels, which link the capital with strategic locations up to 50 km from Pyongyang, were built more than 300 metres deep under the city.
The tunnels serve as escape routes and shelter for the Stalinist state's leader, his family as well as high-ranking regime members, Hwang told Free North Korea radio.
While some tunnels were linked with Pyongyang's subway system, one tunnel, which is linked to Nampo port 40 km from the capital, could make it possible for Kim Jong II to escape to China if his regime was endangered, Hwang said.
One shelter has been constructed specially for Kim and his family, said Hwang, who claimed to have travelled the tunnel network himself.
The 86-year-old fled to South Korea in 1997. He is regarded the highest-ranking North Korean defector.
According to estimates by the Seoul-based Korea Institute for Defence Analyses, the north has some 8,000 subterranean military facilities, among them missile bases.