Clinton: North Korea Should Follow ‘Path of Peace’ Following Kim’s Death

Posted December 20th, 2011 at 6:25 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is urging North Korea's new leadership to choose what she calls the “path of peace,” following the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Clinton on Monday said she hopes North Korea will be committed to “improving relations with its neighbors and respecting the rights of its people.” She also said the U.S. is ready to help the isolated communist nation “usher in a new era of peace, prosperity and lasting security” in the region.

North Korea's closest ally – China – said Tuesday it is committed to “maintaining peace and stability” on the Korean peninsula. Beijing said its foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, has spoken with Clinton and South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan about Mr. Kim's death.

China continued Tuesday to express support for Mr. Kim's son and apparent successor, Kim Jong Un. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin said the new North Korean leader is welcome to visit China at a “convenient” time.

Chinese President Hu Jintao also visited North Korea's embassy in Beijing to offer his condolences.

South Korea expressed condolences to the North Korean public. South Korean Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik said Tuesday that while the South's military remains on alert, there have been no reports of unrest near the demilitarized zone separating the two countries.

“Currently, there is no specific movement from the North Korean military. With close cooperation with the U.S., our military is thoroughly monitoring North Korea's military movement.”

The two Koreas have remained technically at war since 1953, when their three-year conflict ended only with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States is committed to the security of its regional allies and the stability of the Korean peninsula.

Former U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said a lot more emphasis should be placed on the hardships that North Koreans have endured.

“We should be committed to helping them reach a better life, which means getting rid of that government that they have and getting a new one. So I think frankly we have a week response that's inconsistent with our values as a nation. So I don't agree with it at all.”

In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offered condolences to the North Korean people and reaffirmed his long-standing commitment to peace and security in the region. The official gesture came as the U.N. General Assembly condemned human rights abuses in North Korea – a vote taken annually by the world body.

In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Mr. Kim's death could be a turning point for North Korea. He also said Pyongyang's engagement with the international community offers the North its best hope for improving the lives of ordinary North Koreans.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said France is wary about the consequences of a power transfer in the secretive communist state. He voiced hope that North Korean citizens will gain expanded freedoms.