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China seeks to steady North Korea

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China seeks to steady North Korea
The North Korean flag flies at half-mast over its embassy in Beijing December 19, 2011. China on Monday offered its "deep condolences" on the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, which analysts said will spur China's leaders to boost ties with Pyongyang to prevent instability. UPI/Stephen Shaver | License Photo

BEIJING, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- China is moving quickly to strengthen its influence over senior officials in North Korea following the death of the country's leader, Kim Jong Il, analysts say.

Amid concerns Kim's death will lead to an increase in tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula and uncertainty over whether Kim's apparent successor, youngest son Kim Jong Un, can consolidate his power in the face of competing elite factions, China is seeking to ensure stability in the isolated nation, experts say.

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Kim Jong Il died Saturday.

China, North Korea's main ally, had Kim expected Kim would live to help solidify the succession process that he had begun with Kim Jong Un.

"The death significantly enhances uncertainty on the peninsula," Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, told The New York Times.

"In my personal view, the succession is very hastily arranged and Kim Jong Un is very ill-prepared to take over."

China's main worry is that North Korean military leaders may try to increase their hold on power through acts of aggression toward South Korea, analysts said.

Kim's death "means that China will have to assume a heavier responsibility over the relationship in order to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," said Xu Wenji, a professor of Asian studies at Jilin University and a former Chinese envoy to South Korea.

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