- Texas man arrested for powder-letter hoax
- Islamic State opens ‘marriage bureau’ for single jihadists
- Drone almost blocks California firefighting planes
- Tornado rips off roofs, downs trees near Boston
- GOP: Environmental rules keeping agents from accessing border
- John Kerry: Millions displaced by religious fighting in 2013
- Federal appeals court rules against Virginia’s gay marriage ban
- White House says Russia ‘losing’ war in Ukraine
- Hamas turns to North Korea for weapons deal, Iran for money
- Syrian casualties surge as jihadis consolidate
U.S. cautious after death of Kim Jong-il
Reflects uncertainty about transition in North Korea
Question of the Day
The Obama administration’s cautious response to the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il reflects unease and uncertainty about the leadership transition in the reclusive country that has confounded U.S. presidents since Harry S Truman.
For the past 60 years, the “hermit kingdom” has vexed the United States and its allies with war, nuclear tests, missile launches, belligerence and bellicose bombast.
But since he took office, President Obama has had to deal with the country at perhaps its most secretive point: an unclear succession at the very top at a time of deep concern about the stability of the regime.
Thus, the administration’s carefully worded public messages have underscored the administration’s desire for better relations with the autocratic nation and its concern about the welfare of the North Korean people.
They also are gentle reminders that Washington expects Pyongyang to follow through on denuclearization pledges and improve ties with its neighbors, particularly South Korea.
The kid-gloves treatment accorded to the North’s youthful new leader, Mr. Kim’s twenty-something son Kim Jong-un, has attracted criticism from some who see this as a moment to make a forceful case for dramatic reform and regime change.
But without solid intelligence of the opaque transition process and fearful of misunderstandings that could lead to provocations with the notoriously erratic North, U.S. officials concluded that the best course is to say little, wait and watch.
Indeed, the administration’s initial reactions to Mr. Kim’s death have contained little substance at all and were couched in niceties.
“All I can say is that we’re monitoring the situation closely,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said last week as North Korean state media broadcast pictures of wailing mourners, apparently overcome with grief.
“Kim Jong-il had designated Kim Jong-un as his official successor, and at this time, we have no indication that that has changed.”
Mr. Carney added: “We hope that the new North Korean leadership will take the steps necessary to support peace, prosperity and a better future for the North Korean people, including through acting on its commitments to denuclearization.”
Those comments echoed words from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
More than 16 hours after Mr. Kim’s death was announced, she was the first senior U.S. official to comment publicly on the developments. In intentionally vague comments, she called for “a peaceful and stable transition in North Korea” and expressed hope that it would not affect “regional peace and stability.”
Notably, it was Mrs. Clinton who first stirred the pot about a possible succession crisis in North Korea.
Nearly three years ago, on her first trip to Asia as secretary of state, she stunned diplomatic circles with a frank appraisal of U.S. concerns amid rampant speculation about the health of Kim Jong-il, who had suffered a stroke in 2008, and his choice of a successor.
TWT Video Picks
By Scott Pinsker
- D.C. seeks to stay judge's order allowing gun owners to carry in public
- Illegal immigrants demand representation in White House meetings
- Hillary Clinton: Forget Obama, George W. Bush made her 'proud to be an American'
- Babson College, BYU win top spots in Money magazine's college rankings
- Iraqi Christians rally at White House: 'Obama, Obama, where are you?'
- White House defends Kerry failure to broker Middle East cease-fire
- Romney would win popular vote in rematch against Obama: CNN poll
- D.C. seeks stay in order striking down ban on handguns in public
- Tennessee Gov. Haslam slams White House for secret dump of illegals in his state
- Computer glitch caused odd Saturday release of D.C. guns ruling
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq