Regional reactions to Kim Jong-Il’s death vary. Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, and not the prime minister, announced the country’s condolences at the passing of its regional neighbour’s dictator.
Yoshihiko Noda, for his part, said he had ordered stronger intelligence cooperation with South Korea, China and the US. The Japanese premier said: “We must make sure that this sudden event does not adversely affect stability on the Korean peninsula.”
The North’s embassy in Beijing flew its flag at half mast, and people entered to register their respects. In the past 18 months, Kim visited China four times, breaking with his habit of travelling little.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman extended formal expressions of grief. Liu Weimin said: “China and North Korea will strive together to continue positive contributions to the traditional friendship between our two parties, governments and peoples, and to preserving the peace of the Korean peninsula and the region.”
South Korean conservatives demonstrated in the centre of their capital, Seoul. Their anger is undimmed over last year’s deadly military clashes with the North. The two Koreas have remained technically at war with each other since the 1950s.
One demonstrator said: “We welcome the news of Kim’s death. He killed many North Koreans through starvation, and was the main criminal who sank the Cheonan ship and shelled Yeonpyeong Island. So: we welcome the news.”
Relations between Seoul and Pyongyang this year have come under pressure to improve from both Washington and Beijing.