China reaches out to 'Great Successor' by pledging support
US treads cautious line as North Koreans mourn for Kim Jong-il
As North Korea began an 11-day period of mourning for its late leader, Kim Jong-il, whose death at the weekend was announced on Monday, its neighbours and the United States continued yesterday to tread a cautious line between condolence and containment with some gentle coaxing on the need for regional stability.
After pondering options for 24 hours, South Korea decided not to send an official delegation to Pyongyang to pay respects but did voice condolence.
In a statement issued in Washington, the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, made no direct mention of Kim's passing but said the US hopes to see a "peaceful and stable transition".
The US response found echoes in China, which, like South Korea, is anxious that the ascent of the heir-apparent, Kim Jong-un, does not usher in a period of unpredictability either as a result of political rivalries emerging in Pyongyang or because the new leader tries to flex some unwelcome diplomatic muscle on the world stage.
President Hu Jintao yesterday offered China's formal condolences in an early morning visit to the North Korean embassy compound in Beijing. Mr Hu was keen to assure its communist ally, which largely subsists on Chinese oil and food handouts, of its strong support amid an uncertain leadership transition, and the Chinese government later said that the "Great Successor", the young and inexperienced Kim Jong-un, would be welcome to visit China.
Beijing's official message of condolence was heavy on the Marxist-Leninist acronyms, reinforcing the close ideological links between China and North Korea. The flag flew at half-mast in the embassy compound. The Chinese state broadcaster showed a sombre Mr Hu bowing in mourning. He was accompanied by Vice-President Xi Jinping, who is tipped to replace him at the helm of the Communist Party next year.
"We are confident that the people of North Korea will carry on the task bequeathed by Comrade Kim Jong-il, and closely unify around the Korean Workers' Party, and under Comrade Kim Jong-un turn their anguish into strength," Mr Hu said in his condolence remarks.
"Co-operative relations between China and North Korea are the immutable and unwavering guiding policy of China's party and government."
The dynastic passing of power may be untimely for the US which had hopes of bringing Pyongyang back to the table for six-party talks on its nuclear weapons ambitions. Washington had recently signalled its willingness to resume shipments of humanitarian aid to the country if it undertook to end its uranium enrichment activities. That progress is now at risk with little known about what stance Kim Jong-un will take to the outside world.
"The sudden death of Kim Jong-il has plunged the isolated state of North Korea into a period of major uncertainty. There are real concerns that heir-apparent Kim Jong-un has not had sufficient time to form the necessary alliances in the country to consolidate his future as leader of the country," said Sarah McDowall, of IHS, a global affairs consultancy in Colorado.
Politicians were eager to stick to a more diplomatic assessment of the current situation, however. "It is our hope that the new leadership will choose to guide their nation on to the path of peace by honouring North Korea's commitments, improving relations with its neighbours, and respecting the rights of its people," Mrs Clinton said in a statement.
"The United States stands ready to help the North Korean people and urges the new leadership to work with the international community to usher in a new era of peace, prosperity and lasting security on the Korean peninsula."
As Mr Hu was paying his respects, there was a flurry of diplomatic activity in Beijing. China's Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi, spoke with his South Korean counterpart Kim Sung-Hwan, as well as with Mrs Clinton, amid concerns that Kim Jong-il's death could lead to a vacuum. At a parking spot nearby, a group of North Koreans, wearing black suits and sporting their national flag on their lapels, got out of their car, their faces puffy with grief and their eyes red from crying.
- 1 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 2 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 The Visit: Trailer for M Night Shyamalan's latest horror film is terrifying
- 5 9/11: Iranian General accuses US of organising September 11 terror attacks
General Election 2015: Tories sack candidate who said she would never support 'the Jew' Ed Miliband
9/11: Iranian General accuses US of organising September 11 terror attacks
General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
Manny Pacquiao begs Indonesia president to spare life of drug smuggler Mary Jane Veloso about to be executed
Yazidi sex slaves undergoing surgery to 'restore virginity' after being raped by Isis militants
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
HSBC review into moving headquarters from UK 'underway'
£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...
£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...
£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...