North Korean leader Kim Jong Il dies at 69

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - Kim Jong Il, North Korea's mercurial and enigmatic leader, has died. He was 69.

Kim's death was announced Monday by the state television from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.

Kim is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008 but appeared relatively vigorous in photos and video from recent trips to China and Russia and in numerous trips around the country carefully documented by state media.

The leader, reputed to have had a taste for cigars, cognac and gourmet cuisine, was believed to have had diabetes and heart disease.

Meanwhile North Korea is calling Kim Jong Il's son a "great successor" to the country's guiding principle of self reliance, as the country rallies around heir-apparent Kim Jong Un as the next leader.

   The North's official Korean Central News Agency says the country "must faithfully revere respectable comrade Kim Jong Un."

   North Korea on Monday urged its 24 million people to rally behind Kim Jong Un as it mourns the death of supreme leader Kim Jong Il.

   The North's neighbors, meanwhile, are mindful of North Korea's nuclear weapons programs and 1.2 million-strong armed forces. South Korea has put its military on high alert.