The United States is interested in "a peaceful and stable transition in North Korea" now that the country's reclusive leader, Kim Jong Il, has died, secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters this afternoon.
Referring to "the evolving situation on the Korean peninsula in light of the reports from North Korean state-owned media" about Kim's death, Clinton said, "We reiterate our hope for improved relations with the people of North Korea and remain deeply concerned about their well-being."
Clinton's comments are the first public reaction by the Obama administration to the news of Kim's passing. She spoke alongside her Japanese counterpart after a previously scheduled meeting at the State Department.
"We both share a common interest in a peaceful and stable transition on North Korea, as well as ensuring regional peace and stability," she said. "We have been in close touch with our partners in the Six Party Talks today."
The United States and Japan are partners in the so-called Six Party Talks, which, along with South Korea, China and Russia, aim to rid North Korea of its nuclear program.
"We share the recognition that it is important to make sure that the latest events would not negatively affect the peace and stability on the Korean peninsula," Japan's Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said.
Following on President Obama's call with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak overnight, Clinton said she had also spoken with South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey and National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon have also been in touch with their South Korean counterparts. Clinton said U.S. officials are also reaching out to counterparts in China and Russia to discuss the situation.
The Obama administration has thus far reacted cautiously to the news of Kim's death. Clinton ignored questions from reporters this morning about the news. The White House issued a terse statement Sunday night, saying only that it is "monitoring reports" of Kim's demise.