Analysts predict turbulence during N.Korean succession battle

Posted By: Nitsi
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Washington, Sept.29 (ANI): With North Korean leader Kim Jong-il appointing his youngest son as an army general, and giving him his first known official title in an apparent sign that he is being groomed as the country's next leader, analysts have warned of possible political turbulence hitting the succession drive sooner than later.

The prospect of a Western-educated son taking over from an ailing Kim Jong-il, may sound promising, but according to the Christian Science Monitor (CSM), regional analysts are generally more focused on whether such a young leader, especially one with knowledge of a prosperous and free world beyond North Korea's borders, be more apt to press for changes to bring his country into the 21st century?

The second crucial question arising in their minds is-Or would such a young and untested newcomer to the North's leadership be most anxious to prove his toughness to the country's military hierarchy?

"At first glance this can seem like a good thing - that with new people in power, maybe a younger generation will be more open to modernizing the country and opening up to the West," says Jim Walsh, a North Korea expert in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's security studies program.

"But in the near term any transition is likely to be bad news. The "natural inclination" of any new leader, and especially a young and untried one, he says, would be "to be more assertive ... in a period of vulnerability," he adds.

He further says: "We will have to get through what could be a very dangerous period."

Many US officials and North Korea experts foresee a period of risk and turbulence ahead as a new and untried leadership moves to prove itself.

"Most of the senior military leaders would be 50 to 55 years older than this son, so they'd have to be asking themselves how much longer they would have a role in the government," says Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corp. in Santa Monica, California.

He adds: "And we know that when replacements take place in North Korea they usually occur as the result of a purge or a 'traffic accident,' so that could be cause for some instability."

At least publicly, US officials are taking a wait-and-see approach to events in North Korea, suggesting that at most the US will consult with partners in the region on the ramifications of any transition in leadership.

"The United States is watching developments in North Korea carefully, and we will be engaged with all of our partners in the Asian Pacific region as we try to assess the meaning of what's transpiring there," said Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, in comments to reporters Monday.

"Obama used to say talking is not a reward, talking is a way to protect US national interests," says MIT's Walsh.

He adds: "This is exactly the time we need to be talking to North Korea, so we avoid the misperceptions and miscalculations that could lead to some very unfortunate circumstances."

Rand analyst Bennett says this may be the moment for the US to extend a hand, in particular toward the North Korean people. (ANI)

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