China offered its “deep condolences” on the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, which analysts said will spur Beijing to boost ties with Pyongyang to prevent instability.
China is a neighbor and close ally of the isolated Stalinist state, whose official media announced on Monday that its leader had died of a heart attack at the age of 69 and that his youngest son, Kim Jong-Un, would succeed him.
Analysts said Kim’s death would be a source of concern to stability-obsessed leaders in Beijing who would be anxious that Kim Jong-Un has not had enough time to secure control over the country’s government and military.
“I think China will be very concerned because they were very keen to see a smooth succession between Kim Jong-Il and Kim Jong-Un,” said Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, a Beijing-based analyst for the International Crisis Group.
“The idea was Kim Jong-Il would be around for another couple of years and would be able to fully put into place the mechanisms necessary for a transition of power.”
Chinese leaders will be keen to avoid a power struggle in Pyongyang which could destabilise the impoverished country at a time when many of its 24 million people are starving, analysts said.
UN agencies have said that some six million people in the country urgently need food but a $73 million appeal for North Korea has only been 34 percent funded this year.
More than 21,700 North Koreans have fled their impoverished homeland since the 1950-1953 Korean War, the vast majority in recent years as the food shortage worsened.
They typically escape on foot to neighboring China before travelling to a third country. Beijing is worried that if the North Korea regime were to collapse the country could be flooded with refugees.
The last reported visit by Kim Jong-Il to China was in August, when he told Beijing he was ready to resume six-party nuclear talks without preconditions, as he travelled through the Asian country.
But analysts said Kim’s sudden death on Monday has dashed hopes of talks resuming any time soon.