North Korean state television is reporting that Kim Jong Il, the reclusive leader of North Korea, has died. Both the Associated Press and Reuters are confirming the announcement on Monday morning. AP states:
Kim Jong Il has ruled the communist North Korea since the death of his father in 1994. His seventeen year reign was marked by the testing of a nuclear device, in 2006 and again in 2009. His third son, Kim Jong Un, is believed to be his successor.
In a “special broadcast” Monday, North Korea’s state media said Kim died of a heart ailment on a train due to a “great mental and physical strain” on Saturday during a “high intensity field inspection.”
Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard briefed reporters in September 2011 about the heir apparent.
Kim Jong-un’s rise to prominence as North Korea’s likely next ruler, following his father, Kim Jong-il, may mean further provocations will come, Willard said.
“In the past, succession has come with provocation as the new leadership has attempted to establish their bona fides with the North Korean military,” the admiral said.
Kim Jong-un’s prominence during the 2010 attacks “was not lost on us,” Willard said. “The prospects that he could be somehow accountable in a next provocation [are] important to understand as well,” he added.
In April, 2011, Army Gen. Walter “Skip” Sharp, commander for United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea, testified before the Senate about military readiness in Korea.
“We have been working on a whole range of possible provocations from North Korea,” Sharp said. If North Korea should stage an act of provocation or aggression, he said, then South Korea “will immediately strike back in a proportionate self-defense manner. I do believe we are prepared.”
U.S. Pacific Command commander Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard also testified. He is quoted as stating:
“I do agree that North Korea is becoming a direct threat to the United States,” Willard said, noting that North Korea’s ballistic missile programs are working toward an intercontinental capability.
“It becomes an international threat and, for sure, a potential future threat to the United States,” the admiral said.