U.S. Official: North Korea Leader Died Just as Deal Was Struck to Halt Nuclear Program

Senior U.S. official says Obama administration was about to secure deal to transfer food aid to North Korea in return of the suspension of the country's controversial uranium enrichment program.

The United States was about to announce a deal that would put a stop to North Korea's uranium enrichment program when it was announced that the country's leader, Kim Jong Il, had died, a senior U.S. official told CBS on Tuesday.

The Obama administration, according to the official, was due to announce that the U.S. would make a large donation of food aid to North Korea, and in turn North Korea was to announce the suspension of its controversial uranium enrichment program.

Kim Jong Il coffin - AP - Dec. 20, 2011
In this image made from KRT television, the body of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is laid in a memorial palace in Pyongyang, North Korea, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011.AP

Kim's reported death on Monday came as the U.S. envoy for North Korean nuclear issues, Glyn Davies, returned to Washington for consultations after talks in Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing over the nuclear issue.

U.S. officials remain leery of North Korea's intentions and doubts have grown amid reports that Kim Jong il's health problems were opening a transition plan to elevate to the top office his son Kim Jong Un -- a man believed to be in his late 20s, and about whom little is known.

Some analysts said Kim's death -- and the transition to a young and untested leader -- could darken the outlook for the nuclear talks.

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