Regime change slows in North Korea
October 27th, 2011
09:50 AM ET

Regime change slows in North Korea

By Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy reporting from Seoul, South Korea

The pace of North Korea's planned regime change from Kim Jong Il to his twenty-something son appears to have slowed at the moment, two senior U.S. military officials said Thursday.

"The accelerated rate of the succession process has slowed because there's probably not the same sense of urgency, because Kim Jong Il's health doesn't appear to be deteriorating as it was some time ago," one of the officials said.

The officials briefed reporters traveling through Asia with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. Both officials spoke on the condition that their names not be used.

Kim, the father, has been seen in North Korean news reports traveling around the country and visiting China recently, a big change from 2009 when he was thought to be ill with cancer.

The slower pace does not appear to be a reflection of any lack of confidence in the son, Kim Jong Un.

"We saw in the past some skepticism about a third generation successor and some concern from China expressed publicly," said one of the officials.

"But since then, there seems to be this sense in China that there is a much greater degree of confidence in the succession process."

Kim the son, who started his military career as a four-star general, is already being given more official duties by his father. "We see that he's given some responsibility, but not all, to his son," according to one of the officials.

While they hope for the best, the officials are skeptical of North Korea's recent negotiations in Geneva surrounding Pyongyang's nuclear program.

It's seen as a typical North Korean move: to behave well in order to get concessions from the West. In this case, North Korea apparently wants food and other aid to help the nation celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, who ran the country for nearly half a century.

"They are doing anything they possibly can to have gifts and food for all their population and so they remain quiet," said one official.

But being quiet doesn't mean giving up the country's nuclear program.

"They feel that one of the reasons why the regime in Libya fell is because (it) did not retain WMD (weapons of mass destruction) programs. They've told us that," the first official said. "When your negotiating partner says things like that, it's going to raise concern that maybe they are not sincere."

While North Korea has been "accommodating," as Panetta said recently, it is still becoming an even greater threat to the region, according to the officials.

The North Koreans are focusing more on asymmetric warfare - seeking out the vulnerabilities of their adversaries - and are growing that part of their military. Pyongyang already has the world's largest special operations force and it's getting bigger.

The country now has a cyber command aimed at using computers to fight its enemies. A slide shown to reporters during Thursday's background briefing referred to how North Korea's "growing cyber threat targets [South Korean] and U.S. forces."

One official said they are seeing more cyber attacks that "we believe are coming out of North Korea" through IP addresses in China.

"It's very hard to attribute to North Korea, but we know they have put cyber capabilities together," the official said.

Perhaps one sign that all is not going well for either Kim Jong Il or his son is that more disaffected citizens are escaping the tightly controlled country.  Defector numbers have increased significantly over last 10 years.

"Word that they bring out portends that there is more discontent," one official said. "But I'm afraid it is such a suppressed society it would be very challenging to have an Arab Spring. "

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Filed under: Asia • Foreign Policy • Military • North Korea • Nuclear • Panetta • Six-Party Talks • South Korea
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. capricorn

    So they have become a Monarchy......I thought was against communist beleifs?????

    November 2, 2011 at 6:22 am | Reply
  2. Dinonauts.com

    I have seen North Korea and the only intel and modern-era capabilities are furnished by the Chinese strategically behind-modernity for their own self-protection or via underground cyberthug networks that combined can't compete with the Googleplex cafeteria's dishwashing crew.

    November 1, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Reply
  3. Allen

    U are next on the dead list Pscycho Tyrant.

    October 31, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Reply
    • Ojayamei

      Mr. Kim is really gnttieg the Japanese pissed off at him. Considering his need for the little bit of foreign exchange he gets from them, that is Not Smart. He also won't like it too much if Japan speeds up rearmament in a serious way.I'm intrigued by the recent noises coming out of Bejing. They don't seem to like the test business either...and they've got his oil, and his economic windpipe firmly under control.I think the issue for the NK's is not so much the missile, as it is cooperating with their fellow crazies in Tehran, and possibly Caracas. The Mullahs, the Dear Leader, plus Nutjob Chavez and the world's other wackos (Fidel for instance) seem to be all pushing together to keep Uncle Sam scrambling. You're right, they're testing our resolve: but more to the point, they're also trying to overload the system.The TD-2 seems like a perfectly useless piece of junk: liquid fueled, by the time you get the force gassed-up, you're already glowing in the dark cause the other guy's got solid fuel. Mr. Kim may get his test: but he will piss off the neighbors, get more trouble from us. If he wanted to play the resolve game, seems like he could have found a cheaper way to push our buttons. Wonder why he didn't ship his precious toy to Iran and get them to test it ?

      March 2, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Reply
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    October 31, 2011 at 5:19 am | Reply
  5. POSTAl456

    Begun the CODE WARS has

    October 30, 2011 at 11:08 am | Reply
  6. Jay

    Cyber attacks are a new threat to the world. Surprised that North Korea has got it up and running

    October 29, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Reply
  7. salih

    Cyber attacks will be the main military might in the future for north korea. The cyber attacks getting more prevalent for countries. North's military doctrine will be veer toward the cyber attacks and defence. Its technology more cheap and reliable than the nuclear power. So North is possibly want to use this power for its defence. USA need to be more careful towards their cyber infrastructure. Nowadays, hackers getting more powerful and hardly deterring. Some countries have organization for educate hackers. Therefore, our era is now cyber era for many aspects. Since cold war, we have been witnessing lots of cyber attacks which most of all came from china and russia. Day by day, countries spending more money for maintain security of their digital infastructure and it becoming more difficult. Above all, people's private accounts and information has no longer secure. People need to be more careful when they use internet. Netizens need to learn about security and deterring techniques against cyber attacks. Also I wanna offer people to read mafia boy, portray of the 15 years old hacker. It clarifies some critic security techniques and incident that what kind of things could be done by the prominent hackers. These attacks comes from hacker would cause serious damage both for financial and security. I think that, protective tehniques from the cyber issues should be mandatory lessons in curriculum for each country. Each person should be aware of deterrent and security about internet.

    October 29, 2011 at 10:08 am | Reply
  8. salih

    Cyber attacks will be the main military might in the future for north korea. The cyber attacks getting more prevalent for countries. North's military doctrine will be veer toward the cyber attacks and defence. Its technology more cheap and reliable than the nuclear power. So North is possibly want to use this power for its defence. USA need to be more careful towards their cyber infrastructure. Nowadays, hackers getting more powerful and hardly deterring. Some countries have organization for educate hackers. Therefore, our era is now cyber era for many aspects.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:25 am | Reply
  9. carl

    Kim is a crack addict thank god we all die off at some point in life can you stand to of seen this guy live forever or even Obama?

    October 27, 2011 at 8:09 pm | Reply
    • EJ

      You are a dolt.

      October 27, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Reply
  10. c-the-c

    How much are we paying them to attend the talks this time around? Just like we have in the past?
    Stop the talking, it only encourages them.

    October 27, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Reply
  11. Mike

    So north korea is launching cyber attacks?

    With their Windows 3.1 486 machines? Cutting edge CRT monitors.

    October 27, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Reply

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