North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has d**d at the age of 69, state-run television has announced. Mr Kim, who has led the c*******t nation since the d***h of his father in 1994, d**d on a train while visiting an area outside the capital, the announcement said.

He s***************e in 2008 and was absent from public view for months. His designated successor is his third son, Kim Jong-un, who is thought to be in his late 20s. N*********a’s state-run news agency, KCNA, urged people to unite behind the younger Kim. “All party members, m******y 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, m******y and the public,” the news agency said.

State media also referred to him as the “great successor to the revolutionary cause” in what appeared to be the first such reference. A funeral for Kim Jong-il will be held in P*******g 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. Heart a****k The BBC’s Lucy Williamson in Seoul says Mr Kim’s d***h will cause huge shock waves across N*********a, an impoverished, nuclear-a***d nation with few allies.

The announcement came in an emotional statement read out on national television. The announcer, wearing black, said he had d**d of physical and mental over-work. A later report from KCNA said Mr Kim had had a heart a****k. China – N*********a’s closest ally and biggest trading partner – said it was “distressed” to hear the news of his d***h. “We express our grief about this and extend our condolences to the people of N*********a,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying.

South Korea’s m******y has been put on alert following the announcement and its National Security Council is convening for an e*******y meeting, Yonhap news agency reports. The Japanese government has also convened a special security meeting.

The White House said it was “closely monitoring” reports of the d***h. The US remained “committed to stability on the Korean peninsula, and to the freedom and security of our allies”, it said in a statement. South Korea’s President Lee Myung-Bak spoke to US President Barack Obama by telephone.

“The two leaders agreed to closely co-operate and monitor the situation together,” a South Korean presidential spokesman said. Asian stock markets fell after the news was announced. Isolated regime Mr Kim inherited the leadership of N*********a – which remains technically at w*r with South Korea – from his father Kim Il-sung. Shortly after he came to power, a severe f****e caused by i*l-judged economic reforms and poor harvests left an estimated two million people d**d.

His regime has been harshly criticised for human rights abuses and is internationally isolated because of its pursuit of nuclear w*****s. Under Mr Kim’s leadership funds have been channelled to the m******y and in 2006 N*********a conducted its first nuclear test. It followed that up with a second one three years later. Multinational talks aimed at disarming N*********a have been deadlocked for months. Mr Kim unveiled his son as his likely successor a year ago.

Many had expected to see this process further consolidated in 2012. Professor Lee Jung-hoon, professor of international relations at Yonsei University in Seoul, told the BBC that with the transition of power from father to son incomplete, Mr Kim’s d***h could herald “very unstable times” in N*********a. “We have to be very worried because whenever there is domestic instability N*********a likes to find an external situation to divert the attention away from that – including indulging in provocation.”

Christopher Hill, former US representative to the six-party talks on N*********a’s nuclear programme, said all parties needed to “keep cool heads”. As for Mr Kim’s son and successor, very little is known about him – including his exact age. He was educated in Switzerland and is the son of Mr Kim’s reportedly favourite wife, the late Ko Yong-hui. He has an older brother, Kim Jong-chol, and a older half-brother, Kim Jong-nam – both of whom appear to have been passed over for the succession. (BBC)

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