Kim's Death Raises Risks How Will Successor Steer North Korea?
Byline: Charles Hutzler Associated Press
BEIJING It was the scenario strategists from Beijing to Washington worried about: Kim Jong Il of North Korea dies suddenly, before the isolated regime can complete a transfer of power to his young son and rejoin disarmament talks with the U.S.
With news Monday of Kim's death, the impoverished country known to be pursuing nuclear weapons plunged further into uncertainty, raising risks for the region.
Neighbors worry that political maneuvering in Pyongyang could spill over into missile launches or other aggression, though analysts give such acts a low probability. Tens of thousands of American troops are stationed in South Korea and Japan in this
heavily armed, jittery corner of the world. China wants to keep its socialist neighbor stable and avoid a flood of refugees but also free from American and South Korean influence.
"If you asked experts what could happen to bring the regime down, it would be the sudden death of Kim Jong Il. That has happened now," said Victor Cha, a former U.S. National Security Council director for Asian affairs under President George W. Bush and now a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank. "We're potentially at a watershed moment for the region."
Its politics opaque in normal times, Pyongyang is likely to slow decision-making, upending efforts to restart nuclear disarmament talks just as the U.S. and North Korea seemed on the verge of resuming them. After months of delicate discussions, Washington was poised to announce a donation of food aid this week followed by an agreement with Pyongyang to suspend a uranium enrichment program, people close to the negotiations told The Associated Press.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday the U. …