19th December, 2011
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has died at the age of 69, state-run television has announced. Mr. Kim, who has led the communist nation since the death of his father in 1994, died on a train while visiting an area outside the capital, the announcement said.
He suffered a stroke in 2008 and was absent from public view for months.
His designated successor is believed to be his third son, Kim Jong-un, who is thought to be in his late 20s.
North Koreaâ€™s state-run news agency, KCNA, urged people to unite behind the younger Kim.
â€œAll party members, military men and the public should faithfully follow the leadership of Comrade Kim Jong-un and protect and further strengthen the unified front of the party, military and the public,â€ the news agency said.
State media also referred to him as the â€œgreat successor to the revolutionary causeâ€ in what appeared to be the first such reference.
A funeral for Kim Jong-il will be held in Pyongyang on 28 December and Kim Jong-un will head the funeral committee, KCNA reports. A period of national mourning has been declared from 17 to 29 December.
The BBCâ€™s Lucy Williamson in Seoul says Mr. Kimâ€™s death will cause huge shock waves across North Korea, an impoverished, nuclear-armed nation with few allies.
With barely concealed emotion, the newsreader dressed in black announced the death of North Koreaâ€™s iconic leader, only the second the country has ever known.
He died, she said, of a heart attack brought on by mental and physical fatigue. Kim Jong-il had battled serious health problems for many years but his death has come more quickly than many expected.
His apparent heir, his son Kim Jong-un, has been groomed as the successor of the nuclear-armed state for little more than a year.
The question now is whether he has the power and authority to fill his fatherâ€™s shoes.
The announcement came in an emotional statement read out on national television.
The announcer, wearing black, said he had died of physical and mental over-work. A later report from KCNA said Mr. Kim had had a heart attack.
South Koreaâ€™s military has been put on alert following the announcement and its National Security Council is convening for an emergency meeting, Yonhap news agency reports. The Japanese government has also convened a special security meeting.
The White House said it was â€œclosely monitoringâ€ reports of the death. The US remained â€œcommitted to stability on the Korean peninsula, and to the freedom and security of our alliesâ€, it said in a statement.
South Koreaâ€™s President Lee Myung-Bak spoke to US President Barack Obama by telephone.
â€œThe two leaders agreed to closely co-operate and monitor the situation together,â€ a South Korean presidential spokesman said.
Chinese media has reported the death but there has been no official reaction from Beijing – North Koreaâ€™s closest ally and biggest trading party – yet.
Asian stock markets fell after the news was announced.