By Bruce Klingner
Courtesy - The Heritage Foundation
Dec 19, 2011
North Korea’s official media announced today that Kim Jong-il, the country’s long-time leader, died of “physical and mental overwork.” Although Kim had several health problems, particularly after a stroke in August 2008, he had appeared vibrant in recent meetings. As such, the surprise development raises concerns about its impact on Pyongyang’s ongoing leadership transition, regime stability, and North Korean security and foreign policies.
North Korean provocative behavior or military action is unlikely in the near-term. However, Seoul and Washington will be wary that Kim Jong-un, third son of Kim Jong-il and the next leader of North Korea, may feel it necessary in the future to precipitate a crisis to prove his mettle to other senior leaders or to generate a “rally around the flag effect.” South Korea has increased the alert of its military and called an emergency meeting of its National Security Council.
Kim’s death eclipses rumors earlier Sunday that North Korea and the United States had made sufficient diplomatic progress to potentially enable a resumption of Six Party Talks nuclear negotiations. It is likely that such negotiations would be postponed as North Korea goes through a mourning period, formalized succession process, and possible retrenchment of its foreign policies.