U.S. officials puzzling over North Korean leadership
December 19th, 2011
04:25 PM ET

U.S. officials puzzling over North Korean leadership

By Pam Benson

The U.S. is trying to get a better read on the still mysterious successor to North Korean leadership, American officials tell CNN.  How Kim Jong Un will take over and act when he replaces his father remains to be seen. (Read about the next generation of Kims here)

"We’ve done, a significant amount of work to try understand" Kim Jong Un, said Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Monday.  "I would only say at this point that he is young to be placed in this position and we’ll have to see whether in fact it is him and how he reacts to the burden of governance that he hasn’t had to deal with before.” (See more on Dempsey's comments here)

A U.S. official said it's really not clear how the succession in North Korea might go. (Read about questions regarding North Korea's ruling class here)

"A lot depends on whether the power centers of the regime coalesce around Kim Jong Un, or see this period of uncertainty as an opportunity to change the balance of power internally.  Those are very tricky calculations to make in an authoritarian society like North Korea," the official said.

The official described Kim Jong Un as having very similar mannerisms and personality as his father.  The younger Kim's role "has been steadily expanded to build his credentials," noting that Kim Jong Un had been made a general, had military orders issued in his name and has made joint appearances with his father at high-level events. (Read more about the change in Korean leadership here)

"Kim Jong Il picked the apple that didn't fall far from the tree. He didn't select a successor who he believed would radically depart from his vision for North Korea," the official said.

Unlike his father, Kim Jong Un has had a lot less time to prepare for and consolidate power.

"Un may not have enough experience, as well as time, to effectively manage the military and elites who keep the Kim family in power. However, it's possible that his preparation, to date, has been enough, and the regime elites are too invested in the family, or too cautious to do anything else but support him," the official said.

The official expects the North Korean leadership will want to be seen as being behind an orderly transition.

"The regime will try to convey a sense of order during the mourning and transition period. They will probably try to keep things calm externally while the succession maneuvering takes place." The official also believes neighboring countries will likely "avoid provocative actions."

Filed under: Kim Jong Il • Kim Jong Un • North Korea
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Ed Sr of Dallas Tx

    Over reaction by our political "people" is exactly what creates wars! Sit back and watch the son......he is not going to do anything aggressive toward us or South Korea unless WE over react!

    December 19, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Reply
  2. GuestColin

    Give this kid a few donuts, an xbox and a weekend in Vegas, he'll let America make North Korea the 50th state.

    December 19, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Reply
    • Ed Sr of Dallas Tx

      Kim Jong Un went to college int he USA.....students who knew him said he was a very very polite and nice person and not very aggressive. Worry about their military if anything and not about him.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Reply
  3. Don

    I doubt he'll have very much control

    December 19, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Reply
  4. bobby frank

    Just hope he is not the nut job that his father was but like you said the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. That happens alot here is America....we have nut jobs and they have little nut jobs that grow up to be big nut jobs. Hopefully this son is his own man and has some sort of intelligence to move his nation into the 21st century and try to get along with everyone.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Reply
    • Ed Sr of Dallas Tx

      It is when the apple falls and hits you in the HEAD that trouble begins.....the old adage "the apple does not fall far from the tree" is really kind of dumb........."a stitch in time saves nine"......"whatever will be will be"....."it is what it is"..........I will pass on all of them because they are all a generalization!

      December 19, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Reply

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