News / Europe

Europe Cautious in Reaction to Kim Jong-Il's Death

The flag of North Korea flies at half-staff at the North Korean Embassy in Bucharest, Romania, December 19, 2011.
The flag of North Korea flies at half-staff at the North Korean Embassy in Bucharest, Romania, December 19, 2011.
Lisa Bryant

European officials reacted with a mix of hope and watchfulness to the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and apparent power transition to his son. 

Reactions in Europe have been slow and cautious to the news of Kim Jong Il's demise.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague sounded a hopeful note, suggesting the North Korean leader's death from an apparent heart attack could be the turning point for the Asian nation.

In a statement, Hague expressed hope the new North Korean leadership would engage with the international community and work for peace and security in the region.

Germany's Foreign Ministry said there is always hope for change, but that Western expectations remain the same - that North Korea give up its nuclear program and improve the plight of its people.

But French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe downplayed prospects for change in the impoverished nation.

Juppe said there is little hope of change, describing North Korea as a completely closed regime, one of the last remnants of the Soviet Union on the planet. He said France is wary about the consequences of the power succession and hopes North Koreans may one day recover their liberty.

North Korea kept news about the death of Kim Jong Il, 69, secret for roughly two days. State institutions released a statement saying his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, is in charge.

Francoise Nicolas, director for Asian Studies at the Paris-based French Institute for International Relations, says the international community has been taken aback by the events.

"Everybody was taken by surprise by his [Kim Jong Il's] death," said Nicolas. "Everybody was expecting his death, but not that quickly."

Very little is known about Kim Jong Il's son, Kim Jong Un, including his exact age.

"It is a big mystery and nobody has any clue what Kim Jong Un, the new leader will do, [will it] be different from what his father was doing, nobody knows," added Nicolas. "He has been in his position for a very short time, he has been appointed a couple of years back.  And so nobody has any idea what his plans are, whether he has any plans, whether he has legitimacy within the country.

So it is very, very difficult to know whether there will be changes or not."

Europeans and other Western powers are concerned about North Korea's nuclear capabilities. During Kim Jong Il's 17-year rule, the country exploded two crude nuclear devices, in 2006 and 2009. But Nicolas says European bargaining power to affect change in North Korea is limited.

"As far as the Europeans are concerned, I am afraid they cannot do much," said Nicolas. "They have very little influence on North Korea, they have very little economic interaction with North Korea, so they will not have very much to do or much to show."

Analysts question just how much legitimacy the younger Kim musters in his country. They believe the young man will have to prove himself to the military and forge alliances with other powerful groups.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs