The United States and Europe are reacting with caution to the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, with Washington reaffirming its commitment to stability on the Korean peninsula and European leaders voicing guarded hope for change.
A White House statement says President Barack Obama spoke by telephone early Monday with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, to reaffirm Washington’s strong commitment to “the security of our close ally, the Republic of Korea.” The statement said both leaders agreed to continue close coordination between their respective national security teams
In Seoul, President Lee canceled all of his scheduled events, convened a National Security Council meeting and placed the South Korean military on emergency alert. South Korean media say aerial surveillance near the North Korean border has been stepped up.
China, North Korea’s closest ally, offered condolences to the North Korean public, while Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda convened a meeting of senior advisors to formulate a response to the North Korean leader’s death.
The two Koreas remain technically at war since their three-year conflict ended in 1953.
In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Mr. Kim’s death could be a turning point for North Korea. He also said Pyongyang’s engagement with the international community offers the North its best hope for improving the lives of ordinary North Koreans.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said France is wary about the consequences of a power transfer in the secretive communist state. He voiced hope that North Korean citizens will gain expanded freedoms in the future.