Global Leaders React to the Death of North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Il

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Kcna / Xinhua /

World leaders reacted cautiously to the sudden news Sunday night that Kim Jong-Il, the despotic leader of isolated North Korea, had died of a heart attack while traveling aboard a train within the country on Saturday.

As soon as word began to filter out from the so-called Hermit Kingdom – via a sobbing state television newsreader,  clad in a black gown seated beneath an idealized image of snowy mountains – diplomats around the earth began to scramble for responses. The Korean peninsula is entering an uncertain and potentially unstable period which few leaders seem to relish, as the world holds its breath and awaits the first transition of power in North Korea in nearly two decades. Here’s how the reactions unfolded:

Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)
“He passed away too suddenly to our profound regret. The heart of Kim Jong-Il stopped beating, but his noble and august name and benevolent image will always be remembered by our army and people.”

White House press office
“At midnight tonight, President Obama spoke with Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-bak to discuss the situation on the Korean Peninsula following the death of Kim Jong-Il. The President reaffirmed the United States’ strong commitment to the stability of the Korean Peninsula and the security of our close ally, the Republic of Korea. The two leaders agreed to stay in close touch as the situation develops and agreed they would direct their national security teams to continue close coordination.”

Spokesman for South Korean President Lee Myung-bak
“President Lee urged the public to go about their usual economic activities without turbulence. The two leaders (President Lee Myung-bak and President Barack Obama) agreed to closely co-operate and monitor the situation together.”

Ma Zhaoxu, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman
“We are shocked to learn that DPRK top leader comrade Jong-Il passed away and we hereby express our deep condolences on his demise and send sincere regards to the DPRK people.”

Osamu Fujimura, Japan’s chief government spokesman
“We express our condolences upon receiving the announcement of the sudden passing of Kim Jong-Il, the chairman of the National Defence Committee of North Korea. The Japanese government hopes that this unexpected development will not have any adverse impact on the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula.”

Kevin Rudd, Australian Foreign Minister
“The political succession in North Korea is uncertain. It will be difficult to read in the immediate days ahead precisely what will transpire in terms of the future of the North Korean leadership.”

Martin Nesirky, United Nations’ spokesman
“The secretary general is aware of the reports but we don’t have an immediate reaction.”