North Korea put the body of its late leader Kim Jong-il on display in a glass coffin yesterday and heaped praise on his son and successor, amid world wariness at the transition in the nuclear-armed nation.
South Korea’s government sent its sympathies to the North Korean people despite frosty relations following two deadly border incidents last year. And it said it would scrap a plan to display Christmas lights near the tense border because its neighbor is in mourning. North Korea had furiously objected to the plan as “psychological warfare.”
In Pyongyang, state TV showed a somber dark-clad Kim Jong-un, youngest son and successor to his father, viewing the corpse along with other high-level officials.
An honor guard armed with AK-47s watched over the late strongman, dressed in his trademark khaki tunic and partially covered by a red flag, at Pyongyang’s Kumsusan Memorial Palace.
The body of Kim Jong-il’s father, founding North Korean president Kim Il-sung, is on display elsewhere in the palace.
State media have reported scenes of mass grief following Kim’s death from a heart attack on Saturday at age 69, which the -regime kept secret for two days until a tearful TV announcer disclosed it and urged people to rally round his youngest son.
Analysts said there would be little turbulence — at least for now — since regime members at present have a vested interest in preserving the “status quo.”
Observers predict that the younger Kim will be eased into power under the tutelage of his aunt and her husband.
Amid wariness about North Korea’s future under the untested Jong-un, Britain, France and Germany voiced hope for a new dawn after a tumultuous year that has seen regimes topple across the Arab world.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement her “thoughts and prayers” were with the North Korean people “during these difficult times.”
In Beijing, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and several other top officials visited the North Korean embassy to offer his condolences.
The visit — unusual for China’s highest ranked leader — is another sign of Beijing’s determination to protect its ties with Pyongyang as it enters an uncertain transition.
“We believe that under the leadership of the Korean Workers’ Party and comrade Kim Jong-un, the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] people will unite as one and turn their sorrow into strength,” Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) said.