LITTLE ROCK Former President Bill Clinton said Monday that the United States needs to reassure North Korea that it wants to work toward peace and stability in the region and won't take advantage of the death of leader Kim Jong Il.
Clinton, who was president when Kim Jong Il came into power in 1994, said the country needs that reassurance because it is relatively closed off from the rest of the world.
"I think what we need to do now is reassure everybody that neither we nor anybody else will try to take advantage of the situation to take affirmative aggressive action. I know that seems crazy to Americans that anyone would think we would, but they've been relatively isolated and they might think that," Clinton told reporters as he signed books at a Barnes and Noble in Little Rock.
"So we need to make sure that they know that we want is stability, what we want is peace, what we want is for all the children to grow up and do well and then we need to go back to work on trying to reach an understanding with them. I think it can be done."
Clinton said he expected another "freeze" in the relationship between the countries as Kim Jong Il's son and likely successor, Kim Jong Un, takes over.
"When Kim Jong Il succeeded his father, he was relatively inexperienced, not as young as his son is, and so there for a while we had a little freeze, if you will, in the relationship because he was trying to solidify his relationship with all the military and other elements in the society," Clinton said. "I expect something like that to happen again."
Clinton, who helped secure the release of two detained American journalists from North Korea in 2009, said that Kim Jong Un is more exposed to the outside world and media than his father was.
Hundreds of people lined up outside the bookstore as Clinton signed copies of his book, "Back to Work," and visited his home state. The former Arkansas governor also planned to present three service awards during a private ceremony Monday night at his presidential library.
At one point during the book signing, a customer asked Clinton to encourage his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, to run for president in 2016. Clinton told reporters later he's proud of his wife, but that he takes her at her word when she says she's not interested in running.
"We're not as young as we once were," Clinton said. "She's tired. She wants to come home and do the kind of work I'm doing now."