Video: Bill Clinton weighs in on North Korea, diplomacy

  1. Closed captioning of: Bill Clinton weighs in on North Korea, diplomacy

    >> before we actually get to the list of books , let me quickly get your take on how concerned we should be about the stabilization in north korea given the events of kim jong -il's passing?

    >> well, i think we should be concerned, but i think the president did the right thing. he called the president of south korea , hillary met with the foreign minister of japan and the foreign minister of south korea and they basically want to do nothing now so that there's no provocation and they have time to sort it out. kim jong -il's son is quite young. when i went there a couple of years ago to bring the two american journalists home, i didn't meet him. so they were grooming him. what you don't want is for the military, which has overwhelming influence, to feel that they have to do something radical to reassert their control. and i just think we ought to let them sort it out and make the argument we've been making now for a long time, which is they ought to give up their nuclear power and selling military technology and let us work with them to grow food and create factories and create broadly shared prosperity.

    >> we appreciate your perspective on

NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 12/20/2011 9:18:13 AM ET 2011-12-20T14:18:13

North Koreans poured into the streets on Monday to mourn the death of leader Kim Jong-il and state media hailed his untested son as the "Great Successor" of the reclusive state whose atomic weapons ambitions are a major threat to the region.

  1. The death of Kim Jong Il
    1. Report: Red skies, stormy seas marked Kim's death
    2. Circumstances of Kim Jong Il's death fabricated?
    3. Politics trump hunger in N.Korea
    4. Slideshow: The life of Kim Jong ll
    5. Source: Military coup in N. Korea 'unlikely'
    6. NYT: In Kim's death, an extensive intelligence failure
    7. Cartoons: The life and death of Kim Jong Il
    8. Analysis: Opportunities, dangers loom over N. Korea
    9. Even in death, details of Kim Jong Il's life elusive
    10. Kim Jong Il remembered as 'Team America' star

Earlier, a tearful North Korean television announcer, dressed in black and her voice quavering, said the 69-year old ruler died on Saturday of "physical and mental over-work" on a train on his way to give field guidance — advice dispensed by the "Dear Leader" on trips to factories, farms and the military.

A spokesperson at the Unification Ministry confirmed Kim's death to NBC News. His funeral will be held on Dec. 28.

Story: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il dead at 69

Security concerns over the state, which in 2010 shelled civilians on a South Korean island and is accused of sinking one of its warships earlier that year, were heightened after Seoul said the North had test-fired a short range missile prior to the announcement of Kim's death.

PhotoBlog: Recent images of Kim Jong Il

It was the first known launch since June and in a bid to calm tensions, South Korea's defense ministry said it might abandon plans to light Christmas trees on the border, something the North has warned could provoke retaliation.

A U.S. official in Washington appeared to play down the missile test's significance, saying it did not seem linked to Kim's death. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said the U.S. military had so far not raised alert levels for some 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea.

President Barack Obama agreed by phone with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to closely monitor developments.

Clinton: Hope for improved relations
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday the United States hoped for improved ties with the people of North Korea and was in touch with its partners in the six-party nuclear talks.

"We both share a common interest in a peaceful and stable transition in North Korea," Clinton said in an appearance in Washington with visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba.

"We reiterate our hope for improved relations with the people of North Korea and remain deeply concerned about their well-being," she said.

Video: Even in death, details of Kim Jong Il's life elusive

Kim Jong Un, Kim's youngest son, was named by North Korea's official news agency KCNA as the "great successor" to his father, which lauded him as "the outstanding leader of our party, army and people."

A KCNA dispatch said North Koreans from all walks of life were in utter despair but were finding comfort in the "absolute surety that the leadership of Comrade Kim Jong-un will lead and succeed the great task of revolutionary enterprise."

But there was uncertainty about how much support the third generation of the North's ruling dynasty has among the ruling elite, especially in the military, and concern he might need a military show of strength to help establish his credentials.

"Kim Jong-un is a pale reflection of his father and grandfather. He has not had the decades of grooming and securing of a power base that Jong-il enjoyed before assuming control from his father," said Bruce Klingner, an Asia policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

Slideshow: Daily life in North Korea (on this page)

'Writhing in pain'
Video from Chinese state television showed residents of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, weeping while KCNA reported people were "writhing in pain" from the loss.

Large crowds gathered at a massive memorial of Kim Il-sung in central Pyongyang. Kim will be laid to rest next to his father, KCNA said.

On the streets of the North Korean capital, people wailed in grief, some kneeling on the ground or bowing repeatedly. Children and adults laid flowers at key memorials.

A tearful Kim Yong Ho said Kim Jong Il had made people's lives happier. "That is what he was doing when he died: working, traveling on a train," he said.

News of the death of the man whose push to build a nuclear arsenal left the North heavily sanctioned and internationally isolated, triggered immediate nervousness in the region, with South Korea stepping up its military alert.

In Seoul, residents worried about instability in the North. A parliamentary official, Lee Kyu-yun, said he was thinking of stocking up food in case of soaring military tensions.

Lee Byung-joon, 27, feared South Korea might have to fight a war against the North if high-ranking officials challenge the inexperienced Kim Jong Un.

"I definitely think the chance of war breaking out between the South and the North is higher now than before," Lee said.

  1. The death of Kim Jong Il
    1. Report: Red skies, stormy seas marked Kim's death
    2. Circumstances of Kim Jong Il's death fabricated?
    3. Politics trump hunger in N.Korea
    4. Slideshow: The life of Kim Jong ll
    5. Source: Military coup in N. Korea 'unlikely'
    6. NYT: In Kim's death, an extensive intelligence failure
    7. Cartoons: The life and death of Kim Jong Il
    8. Analysis: Opportunities, dangers loom over N. Korea
    9. Even in death, details of Kim Jong Il's life elusive
    10. Kim Jong Il remembered as 'Team America' star

China, the North's neighbor and only powerful ally, said it was confident the North would remain united and that the two countries would maintain their relationship.

"We were distressed to learn of the unfortunate passing of (Kim) ... and we express our grief about this and extend our condolences to the people of North Korea," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying.

"We are confident the North Korean people will be able to turn their anguish into strength and unify as one," he said.

There was less regret from some Western leaders, with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper saying Kim had "violated the basic rights of the North Korean people for nearly two decades." Both he and British Foreign Secretary William Hague said they hoped North Korea's fortunes might now improve.

Reuters, The Associated Press, NBC News' Julie Yoo and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

Photos: Kim Jong Il through the years

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  1. Happy family

    Kim Jong Il as a child with his father Kim Il Sung and first wife Kim Jong Suk. (Noboru Hashimoto / Corbis Sygma) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Young student

    A1963 photo from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency, Kim Jong Il when he was a student of Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. With his friends

    Kim Jong Il, second person from right, takes part of a souvenir picture with his friends in this undated photo. (Korean Central News Agency via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Official business

    In his young days working at the Central Committee of WPK (Worker's Party of Korea). (Korean Central News Agency via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Training exercise

    Kim Jong Il leads the firearms training of the February 2nd National Sport Defense team members while he was working at the Central Committee of WPK (Worker's Party of Korea). (Korean Central News Agency via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Meeting with farmers

    Kim Jong Il talks with farmers when he was in the Central Committee, May 21, 1971. (Korean Central News Agency via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Test drive

    Kim Jong Il takes a test drive of a play equipment combat plane in Taesong amusement park, Pyongyang in North Korea,Oct. 2, 1977. (Korean Central News Agency via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Filmmaking

    Kim Jong Il gives advice at the shooting of "An Jung Geun Avenges Hirobumi Ito," a narrative film. (Korean Central News Agency via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Father and son

    Kim Jong Il was anointed successor to his father, Kim Il Sung, in 1980. Known as the "Great Leader," Kim Il Sung and his son are shown attending a Korean Worker's Party convention in October of that year. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Family portrait

    Kim Jong Il, bottom left, poses memebers of his family in this 1981 photo in Pyongyang, North Korea. Sitting at right is his son, Jong-Nam, Kim's sister-in-law Sung Hye-Rang stands at top left with her daughter Lee Nam-Ok, center and son Lee Il-Nam, top right. While virtually nothing is known about the leader's personal life, an attempt by his first-born son Kim Jong Nam, bottom right, to enter Japan on a false passport in May, 2001, briefly shone a light onto his family's private dealings. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Applause please

    Kim Jong Il meets with Korean People's Army personnel in this Sept., 1988, photo. North Korea is believed to be the most heavily militarized country in the world on a per capita basis. (AFP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Like father, like son

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Il stands next to his father, Kim Il Sung, inspecting a football field in Pyongyang. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Silent famine

    Residents of Taziri, North Korea, wait for Red Cross food supplies in December 1995, not long after the death of Kim Il Sung left Kim Jong Il in control of the country. At the time, around 130,000 North Koreans were reportedly on the brink of famine and 500,000 were homeless. (Calvi Parisetti / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Kim looking at things

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Il inspects cucumbers harvested inside the 770th army base near Nyon Won power plant in Pyonan-Namdo. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Frenemies?

    South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, right, hugs North Korean leader Kim Jong Il at the end of their summit meeting at the airport in Pyongyang, North Korea. The two leaders held historic talks for three days in June 2000. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A visitor from Russia

    Kim Jong Il walks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, as he arrived in Pyongyang in July 2000 for talks on halting North Korea's missile-development program. (Itar-tass / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Toasting the U.S.

    Kim Jong Il toasts U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at a dinner in Pyongyang in October 2000. The visit was part of an coordinated effort by Washington and its allies South Korea and Japan to end the country's isolation. (Chien-min Chung / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A giant leader

    A portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il displayed at an entrance of the foreign ministry in Pyongyang August 2002. (Shingo Ito / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Welcoming Japan

    Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, left, shakes hands with Kim Jong Il after signing a joint statement at the end of a one-day summit in Pyongyang on Sept. 17, 2002. North Korea admitted to kidnapping Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s and using them to train spies. (AFP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Crowds in the square

    In January 2003, more than one million people gathered on Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang to hear political leaders hail North Korea's dramatic decision to withdraw from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Tearful goodbyes

    Emotional South Koreans bid farewell to their North Korean families following a brief reunion in July 2004. The families were separated by the border that was imposed after fighting ended in 1953. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. X marks the spot

    A South Korean protester holds a picture of Kim Jong Il marked with a cross during a rally in Seoul on July 7, 2006. Demonstrators denounced Pyongyang's test-firing of seven missiles. (Lee Jin-man / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Wining and dining

    South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun joins Kim Jong Il at a farewell lunch in Pyongyang on Oct. 4, 2007, after the two sides signed a pledge to seek a peace treaty to replace the 54-year-old cease-fire that ended the Korean War. With no treaty in place, the two countries technically are still at war. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Military matters

    Kim Jong Il visits a military unit in this picture released by North Korea's official news agency on Aug. 11, 2008. It was Kim's last public appearance before intelligence officials suggested he had fallen gravely ill. (KCNA / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. In the public eye again

    In this image taken from North Korea's KRT state television, Kim Jong II attends the first session of the Supreme People's Assembly on April 9, 2009, in Pyongyang. It was his first major public appearance since reportedly suffering a stroke in August 2008. (APTN) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Paying his respects

    A gaunt-looking Kim Jong Il, sitting center in the front row, is surrounded by high-ranking officials during a ceremony marking the 15th anniversary of his father's death on July 8, 2009. Kim Il Sung, who founded North Korea, remains known as the country's"eternal president." (KCNA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Visit from Clinton

    Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, right, meets with Kim Jong Il, left front, in Pyongyang on Aug. 4, 2009. North Korea pardoned and released two detained U.S. journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, after the meeting. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Calling on a cotton farm

    Kim Jong Il inspects a cotton plant farm of the Korean People's Army's 1596 unit on Nov. 29, 2009. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Meet-and-greet

    Kim Jong Il waves as people including soldiers applaud during a visit to the construction site of the Kumyagang Army-People Power Station in South Hamgyong Province in an undated picture released by North Korea's Central News Agency in August, 2010. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. China visit

    Chinese President Hu Jintao, right, meets with Kim Jong Il in Changchun, in northeast China's Jilin province, on Aug. 27, 2010. (Ju Peng / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Likely heir

    North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il, seated at center in sunglasses, and his youngest son Kim Jong Un, seated at left, pose for a photo with the newly elected members of the central leadership body of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) and the participants in the WPK Conference, at the plaza of the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang in this picture released by the North's KCNA news agency on Sept. 30, 2010. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il anointed his youngest son as successor this week, promoting him to senior political and military positions. (KCNA via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (2nd L) and his youngest son Kim Jong Un (3rd R from Kim Jong-il) visit the cemetery for Chinese soldiers who died during the 1950-53 Korean War in Hoechang County, North Korea, Oct. 26, 2010, in this picture released by North Korea's official KCNA news agency. (KCNA / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. North Korea leader Kim Jong Il, right, and his son Kim Jong Un attend a massive military parade to mark the 65th anniversary of the communist nation's ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang, North Korea on Oct. 10, 2010. Kim Jong Il, North Korea's mercurial and enigmatic leader whose iron rule and nuclear ambitions dominated world security fears for more than a decade, has died. He was 69. (Vincent Yu / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Pass in review

    Kim Jong Il attends a military parade to celebrate the 63rd founding anniversary of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in Pyongyang on September 9, 2011. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. A tearful announcer dressed in black announces the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong il on North Korean State Television on Dec. 19, 2011. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il died on a train trip, state television reported on Monday, sparking immediate concern over who is in control of the reclusive state and its nuclear program. The announcer said the 69-year old had died on Saturday of physical and mental over-work on his way to give "field guidance". (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. The body of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is seen inside a glass coffin as people pay their respects, Pyongyang, North Korea, on Dec. 20, 2011. (EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. ARCHIVES : KIM IL SUNG AND KIM JONG IL
    Noboru Hashimoto / Corbis Sygma
    Above: Slideshow (36) The life of Kim Jong ll - Kim Jong Il through the years
  2. Image:
    KCNA via AFP - Getty Images
    Slideshow (42) The life of Kim Jong ll - World reacts
  3. Daryl Cagle / MSNBC.com, Politicalcartoons.com
    Slideshow (30) The life and death of Kim Jong Il
  4. Image:
    David Guttenfelder / AP
    Slideshow (53) Journey into North Korea
  5. Elizabeth Dalziel / AP
    Slideshow (7) Daily life in North Korea

Interactive: Meet North Korea’s first family

The North Korean dictatorship established by Kim Il Sung after World War II was taken over by his son Kim Jong Il in the 1990s. Now, as Kim Jong Il’s health fails the power is apparently being formally handed to his eldest son Kim Jung Un. In addition, the Kim family holds dozens of powerful positions throughout the North Korean bureaucracy.

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