- The Washington Times - Monday, December 19, 2011

The White House said Monday it has “no new concerns” about North Korea’s leadership after the death of dictator Kim Jong-il, but a spokesman for President Obama said he is “closely monitoring events.”

“I don’t think we have any additional concerns,” said presidential spokesman Jay Carney. “The issue here isn’t about personalities, it’s about the actions of the government. President Obama has been regularly briefed on the situation.”

Mr. Carney also said it was too soon to tell whether Mr. Kim’s death will present the U.S. with an opportunity to reduce North Korea’s nuclear arsenal through six-nation talks.

Mr. Kim, who reportedly died of heart failure Saturday at age 69, is expected to be entombed Dec. 28 with his father, “Eternal President” Kim Il-sung, in central Pyongyang, the nation’s capital. Kim Jong-il’s handpicked successor and heir apparent, 28-year-old Kim Jong-un, is in charge of the funeral arrangements.

After learning of Mr. Kim’s death, Mr. Obama spoke around midnight eastern time with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, with whom he has a particularly close relationship. Mr. Carney said Mr. Obama reaffirmed America’s “unwavering commitment” to stability on the Korean peninsula.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon spoke to their counterparts in South Korea overnight, and Mrs. Clinton also was meeting Monday with the Japanese foreign minister, Mr. Carney said.

“South Korea is a very close ally, and this president works very closely with them,” Mr. Carney said.