Monday, December 19, 2011

Military tensions rises in reaction to Kim Ills death - son named successor

Earlier a tearful North Korean television announcer, dressed in black and her voice quavering, said the 69-year old ruler died on Saturday of "physical and mental over-work" on a train on his way to give field guidance -- advice dispensed by the "Dear Leader" on trips to factories, farms and the military.

Security concerns over the hermit state, that in 2010 shelled civilians on a South Korean island and is blamed for the sinking of one of its warships earlier that year, were heightened after Seoul said the North had test-fired a short range missile prior to the announcement of Kim's death.

It was the first known launch since June and in a bid to calm tensions, South Korea's defense ministry said it might abandon plans to light Christmas trees on the border, something the North has warned could provoke retaliations.

North Korea's official KCNA news agency lauded Kim's youngest son, Kim Jong-un as "the outstanding leader of our party, army and people."

"We have esteemed comrade Kim Jong-un," KCNA led a dispatch that said North Koreans from all walks of life are in utter despair but were finding comfort in the "absolute surety that the leadership of Comrade Kim Jong-un will lead and succeed the great task of revolutionary enterprise."

But there was uncertainty about how much support the third generation of the North's ruling dynasty has among the ruling elite, especially in the military, and worry he might need a military show of strength to help establish his credentials.

"Kim Jong-un is a pale reflection of his father and grandfather. He has not had the decades of grooming and securing of a power base that Jong-il enjoyed before assuming control from his father," said Bruce Klingner, an Asia policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

"(He) may feel it necessary in the future to precipitate a crisis to prove his mettle to other senior leaders or deflect attention from the regime's failings."

Video from Chinese state television showed residents weeping in the North Korean capital Pyongyang. KCNA reported people were "writhing in pain" from the loss of the man who in 1994 assumed the leadership of the totalitarian state from his father Kim Il-sung, the North's first, and officially eternal, president.

Large crowds gathered at a massive memorial of Kim's father and state founder Kim Il-sung in central Pyongyang mourning the death of the "Dear Leader." Kim will be laid to rest next to his father, KCNA said.

The funeral of Kim, turned into a demi-god by his propaganda machine, will be held on December 28.

News of the death of the man whose push to build a nuclear arsenal left the North heavily sanctioned and internationally isolated, triggered immediate nervousness in the region, with South Korea stepping up its military alert.

China, the North's neighbor and only powerful ally, said it was confident the North would remain united and that the two countries would maintain their relationship.

"We were distressed to learn of the unfortunate passing of (Kim) ... and we express our grief about this and extend our condolences to the people of North Korea," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying.

"We are confident the North Korean people will be able to turn their anguish into strength and unify as one," he said.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il dies

CBS/AP) PYONGYANG, North Korea - Even as the world changed around him, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il remained firmly in control, ruling absolutely at home and keeping the rest of the world on edge through a nuclear weapons program.

Inheriting power from his father in 1994, he led his nation through a devastating famine while frustrating the U.S. and other global powers with an on-again, off-again approach to talks on giving up nuclear arms in return for energy and other assistance. Kim was one of the last remnants of a Cold War-era that ended years earlier in most other countries.

His death was announced Monday by state television two days after he died. North Korea's news agency reported that he had died at 8:30 a.m. Saturday after having a heart attack on a train, adding that he had been treated for cardiac and cerebrovascular diseases for a long time. He was 69.

CBS News correspondent Celia Hatton reports news of Kim's death was met with a flood of televised emotion in North Korea, as state TV showed orderly columns of state officials weeping dramatically, and ordinary North Koreans beside themselves in apparent grief on the streets of Pyongyang.

In South Korea, however, like much of the rest of the world, the news provoked concern. Hatton reports that South Korea put its military on high alert Monday, even calling off-duty troops back to work in the event of any provocations from the North.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported later Monday that the North had conducted at least one short-range missile test. Two South Korean military officials said they couldn't immediately confirm the report, saying to do so would breach a policy of not commenting on intelligence matters.
Both said any firing would be part of a routine drill and have little relation to Kim's death. They both spoke on condition of anonymity, citing policy. Yonhap cited unidentified government and military officials as saying the test occurred off the east coast.

Kim, who reputedly had a taste for cigars, cognac and gourmet cuisine, is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008 but he had appeared relatively vigorous in photos and video from recent trips to China and Russia and in numerous trips around the country documented by state media.


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