The death of longtime North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, 69, has the world on-the-edge, wondering how his successor will run the country and how his death will affect countries in Asia. There are not many answers to those questions yet, but responses to the North Korean leader’s death are pouring in.
The foreign ministers of both France and Australia said that the death of Kim Jong-il could serve as a sign of hope in the country that suffers from chronic food shortages, poor infrastructure, and frequent power outages.
“It is at times like this that we cannot afford to have any wrong or ambiguous signaling. This time also presents an important opportunity to the new North Korean leadership to engage fully with the international community,” said Australia’s Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.
“We hope one day the North Korean people will find freedom,” said France’s Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.
Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who has visited North Korea as an unofficial U.S. envoy eight times, commented Monday on CNN, “The issue is going to be, will there be stability in the North Korean leadership? Will they continue their recent efforts of engaging South Korea and the United States over food aid, over nuclear talks?”
He added, “I think it’s important that if the signs are positive that there’s a stable succession, and we don’t know that, that we engage North Korea, that we proceed with humanitarian aid.”
Communist China, one of North Korea’s strongest allies, issued a statement through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “We were distressed to learn of the unfortunate passing of the senior-most North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and we express our deep grief about this and extend our condolences to the people of North Korea.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines also issued a statement reading, “The Government and the people of the Philippines convey our condolences to the Government and people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on the death of President Kim Jong-il.”
However, British Foreign Secretary William Hague echoed remarks by Australia and France, saying, “This could be a turning point for North Korea.”
Other countries responded to the death, saying that they hoped the unexpected loss would not increase security concerns in the region.
“For the sake of the future of the Republic of Korea, peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula is more important than anything else,” said South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.
“We hope this sudden event does not have an adverse effect on the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula,” said Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura.
The Obama administration has not said much on Kim's death, saying simply that it was "closely monitoring reports." The White House has reported that President Barack Obama spoke with South Korea’s president and had reconfirmed the U.S. commitment to the region.
Kim Jong-il led North Korea with an iron fist since 1994. He inherited power from his father and founder of North Korea, Kim Il-sung.
On Monday's "special announcement," the television announcer said that the “dear leader” died of physical and mental overwork. It was later reported by KNCA television that he died of “severe myocardial infarction along with a heart attack.”
To watch a video of North Korean reaction to the death Kim Jong-il please view below.