Kim Jong-un

US, Asia wary after Kim's death

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 December, 2011, 12:00am


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Kim Jong-il, the leader of North Korea, has died. He was 69 and had ruled the country for 17 years. His death came on Saturday after a long illness that Western spy agencies say was some form of cancer.

The leader had made it clear that he wanted to pass his power on to his son, Kim Jong-un. The North Korean media called on people to mourn Kim and rally behind his son.

The news led to shock world-wide. North Korea withheld the news of Kim's death for almost two days, leading experts to think that there had been some argument as to who would take his place. US President Barack Obama spoke to South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak by phone to discuss the issue. Japan's Foreign Minister was already in the US for scheduled talks. American and Asian leaders are worried that North Korea will fall apart.

Under Kim's rule, North Korea exploded two nuclear devices, one in 2006 and another in 2009, just months after Obama took office. But while the tests may have given the country a measure of protection against a US invasion, which Kim Jong-il and his military leaders long feared, they also deepened its isolation.

Kim's death poses difficult choices for both Washington and Beijing, the North's longtime ally. Little is known about Kim Jong-un, who is believed to be in his late 20s, but is unknown to world leaders.


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