Kim Jong-il’s Death Inspires Anxiety
The death of Kim Jong-il plunged diplomats, military strategists and political leaders among its neighbors and much further afield into a state of anxiety and uncertainty on Monday as they awaited some signal on isolated North Korea’s nuclear intentions and its handling of the succession.
The response was colored by the secretive nature of the regime in Pyongyang which while grooming Mr. Kim’s youngest son, King Jong-un, as the heir-apparent, allowed little of substance to be known about him.
But, from Beijing to London, outsiders peering into the opaque North Korea said they hoped the transition from would be achieved without worsening tensions on of the Korean peninsula.
Even as state media in Pyongyang referred to Kim Jong-un as “the great successor,” Japan said it hoped Kim Jong-il’s death “does not have an adverse effect on the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula.” A brief statement from the Chinese authorities — whose reaction to potential turmoil in North Korea could dominate the regional response — offered “deep condolences,” news reports said.
In South Korea, the military went on high alert as President Lee Myung-bak called for calm and urged residents to pursue their normal lives, news reports said. President Lee was reported to have spoken to allies in Washington and Japan to coordinate their response.
A White House statement said: “We remain committed to stability on the Korean peninsula and to the freedom and security of our allies.”
China’s Xinhua news agency quoted the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ma Zhaoxou as saying Beijing was “distressed” to learn of the death. “We express our grief about this and extend our condolences to the people of North Korea.”