SEOUL, July 9 -- North Korean President Kim Il-sung died of a heart attack amid crucial international nuclear talks and only days before his first scheduled meeting with South Korea's leader, Radio Pyongyang reported Saturday. Kim, 82, who came to power with Soviet assistance in 1948, was the last of the communist Cold War dictators, outlasting Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse-tung. The only major communist ruler to outlive Kim was China's 89-year-old Deng Xiaoping. Negotiations in Geneva between Washington and Pyongyang over North Korea's nuclear program were suspended Saturday following the announcment of Kim's death. No date for the resumption of the talks was announced. The future of a scheduled first summit meeting in Pyongyang between the two Koreas July 25-27 was unclear. South Korea placed its armed forces on special alert after learning of the North Korean leader's death and President Kim Young-sam assembled his National Security Council for consultations. Kim Il-sung, who ruled his hard-line communist nation for 46 years, sent hundreds of thousands of North Korean troops across the 38th Parallel in a surprise attack on the South in 1950 to launch the three- year Korean War. Radio Pyongyang said in a special midday broadcast monitored in Tokyo Saturday that Kim, known as the 'Great Leader,' had suffered a heart attack Thursday night and died at 2 a.m. Friday. 'The Great Leader Kim Il-sung, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea and President of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, passed away from a sudden attack of illness, ' an official North Korean news agency statement said.
Kim's designated successor was his eldest son, Kim Jong-il, 53, known in North Korea as the 'Dear Leader.' A statement from the official (North) Korean Central News Agency said Kim's body would lie in state at the Kumsusan Assemby Hall. Pyongyang has declared July 8 through July 17 the official period of mourning. The KNCA report said plans for a July 17 funeral service hosted by Kim's eldest son Kim Jong-il had been planned, but foreign guests would not be invited. 'It is the biggest loss of our party and revolution and the deepest grief of the whole nation that comrade Kim Il-sung, the Great Leader of our party and our people ... passed away unexpectedly at this historical moment,' said a message broadcast on the official radio. Kim's death, which was unexpected despite his age, raised new uncertaintities over stability and the continuity of Pyongyang's leadership and the future of international talks over North Korea's nuclear program. Intelligence reports have said North Korea was using fuel from its atomic power plant at Yongbon to provide plutonium for one or more atomic bombs. South Korean officials said North Korean flags were being flown at half-mast along the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas and Pyongyang's propaganda officers were broadcasting eulogies for the 'Great Leader.' U.S. President Bill Clinton, attending the G-7 summit in Naples, said he hoped the talks with Pyongyang could continue. 'On behalf of the people of the United States, I extend sincere condolences to the people of North Korea on the death of President Kim Il-sung,' Clinton said. 'We appreciate his leadership in resuming the talks between our governments. We hope they will continue as appropriate.' A White House spokesman in Washington said, 'We're monitoring the situation and pursuing more information.' In a dispatch from Pyongyang, the official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, reported on the reaction to Kim's death from the North Korean news agency. 'Kim was an outstanding thinker and theoretician and genius of leadership ... and a great leader of the people who loved the people most deeply and devoted his all to them,' KNCA said. The North Korean agency cited a medical report which said Kim had received treatment for heart disease and suffered a heart attack 'owing to heavy mental strains on July 7, 1994, which was followed by a heart shock. 'All medical treatment was immediately given to him. But the heart shock took a turn for the worse and he passed away at 2 a.m. on July 8, 1994.' In Tokyo, Japan's Foreign Ministry said it hoped Kim's death 'will not harm peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.' Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who recently visited Pyongyang to help defuse the nuclear crisis, said he hoped Kim's death would not undermine the 'commitment to peace' the North Korean leader made recently to him. After his visit in June, Carter described Kim as 'vigorous, intelligent and completely in charge of government.' 'He told me he hoped to stay active for another 10 years,' said Carter. In one of his last televised appearances, Kim met with Carter and declared North Korea had no nuclear weapons ambitions. News of Kim Il-sung's death came within hours of the inital meeting in Geneva between officials from North Korea and the United States in a bid to peacefully settle Pyongyang's refusal to allow inspections of its nuclear power installations. Although the second scheduled session Saturday was canceled after announcement of Kim's death, negotiators said they would remain in Geneva in hopes the talks could be resumed.