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U.S. 'Closely Monitoring' Kim’s Death

The United States was Sunday "closely monitoring" reports on North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il's death and said it was committed to stability on the Korean peninsula and the security of its allies.

Kim's death, announced by North Korea's official media, posed an immediate and grave foreign policy crisis for Washington and its allies, given Pyongyang's history of belligerence and its nuclear arsenal.

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N. Korean Leader Kim Jong-Il Dies at 69

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has died aged 69 of a heart attack, state media announced Monday, plunging the impoverished but nuclear-armed nation into uncertainty amid a second dynastic succession.

The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the leader "passed away from a great mental and physical strain" at 8:30 am on Saturday (23:30 GMT Friday), while on a train for one of his "field guidance" tours.

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N. Korea 'Agrees to Suspend Uranium Enrichment'

North Korea has agreed to suspend its enriched-uranium nuclear weapons program, a key United States demand for the resumption of disarmament talks, news reports said Saturday.

Yonhap news agency and the Chosun Ilbo daily quoted an unidentified diplomatic source saying the Washington had also agreed to provide the North with up to 240,000 tons of food aid.

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S. Korea to Display Christmas Lights Near N. Korea

South Korea said Monday it would display Christmas lights near the tense border with communist North Korea despite Pyongyang's threats to retaliate against what it calls psychological warfare.

The defense ministry will allow Seoul church groups to string up the lights on three tree-shaped steel towers atop military-controlled hills near the border, a ministry spokesman told Agence France Presse.

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S.Korea, U.S. Resume Talks on Nuclear Energy

South Korea is reportedly pushing for U.S. permission to recycle spent nuclear fuel for power generation as the two countries resumed talks to revise a 1974 pact on the use of atomic energy.

The focus of the three-day talks until Thursday will be the peaceful use of nuclear energy, including Seoul's right to reprocess spent fuel, Yonhap news agency said.

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Clinton Pushes Reform, Urges Myanmar to Cut Ties with NKorea

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won promises of further reforms from Myanmar's rulers in historic talks Thursday, but said it was too soon to end sanctions after decades of repression.

Paying the most senior U.S. visit in more than half a century to a nation long distrustful of the West, Clinton offered only cautious incentives to encourage more action, despite a call by China for Western sanctions to be lifted.

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S. Korean Defense Chief Warns of Provocations

South Korea's defense chief said Thursday that North Korea may use provocations next year to deal with economic woes and political instability stemming from a second dynastic succession.

Defense Minister Kim Kwan-Jin described 2012 as a critical year for security saying the military should stay alert against any provocations by North Korea.

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North Korea Claims Progress in Uranium Enrichment

North Korea said Wednesday that it is making rapid progress on work to enrich uranium and build a light-water nuclear power plant, increasing worries that the country is developing another way to make atomic weapons.

An unidentified spokesman at Pyongyang's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the construction of an experimental light-water reactor and low enriched uranium are "progressing apace."

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N. Korea Threatens Strike on South's Presidency

North Korea threatened Thursday to turn South Korea's presidential palace into a "sea of fire" in response to any provocation, a day after Seoul's military held a big exercise near the border.

The land, sea and air drill was staged to mark the first anniversary of a deadly North Korean attack on the South's border island of Yeonpyeong, which sparked outrage among South Koreans and prompted international alarm.

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S. Korea, U.S. Envoys to Meet on N.Korea in Vienna

South Korea's nuclear envoy Lim Sung-Nam will meet a top U.S. official in Vienna next week for talks on ways to revive stalled negotiations on North Korea's nuclear disarmament, the foreign ministry said Thursday.

The meeting with Glyn Davies, new U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, will be held during Lim's two-day trip to Vienna from Monday, the ministry said.

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