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."