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Pentagon Holds Drill Simulation For Regime Change in North Korea A Week Before Kim John-il’s Death

By: Anna Mulrine
CNBC News

While the Pentagon is always planning for contingencies, it was particularly prescient in its choice of war games the week before North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il’s death. As one of its three possible doomsday scenarios, the U.S. Army selected “The collapse of North Korea” at its Unified Quest exercises.

In the scenario, North Korea’s collapse comes about because of regime change in the isolated nation. Kim Jong-il’s death, announced Monday, raises questions about whether his son and appointed heir, Kim Jong-un, will be able to consolidate power.

Pulled from a paper published by Bruce Bennett and Jennifer Lind at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, the scenario begins with the Kim regime “embarking on the most difficult challenge that such regimes face: succession.”

“The transition from apparently stability to collapse can be swift,” the scenario says, and “could unleash a series of catastrophes on the peninsula with potentially far-reaching regional and global effects.”

Among the potential effects would be a massive outflow of the nation’s 24 million people, many of whom are severely malnourished, across the border. Equally, if not more troubling, would be the security of North Korea’s arsenal.

“North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction could find their way out of the country and onto a global market,” the authors say.

While war games are useful preparation for the worst eventualities, the Pentagon has long been planning for Kim Jong-il’s death.

The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review – the Defense Department’s top strategy document – warns that “stability or collapse of a WMD-armed state is among our most troubling concerns.”

But “to this point, we have not seen any change in North Korean behavior of a nature that would alarm us,” the nation’s top military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, told reporters traveling with him on a trip to the Middle East.

He learned of Kim Jong-il’s death “in the middle of the night,” he said. While he quickly consulted with “the chain of command,” the decision was made not to put U.S. troops on heightened alert.

“No changes in troop dispositions, no changes in readiness levels,” he said. “We’re simply remaining vigilant.”

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N.Korean Heir Apparent Linked to Assassination Plot

Close aides of Kim Jong-un, the 26-year-old third son and heir apparent of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, last week attempted to assassinate the leader’s first son Jong-nam, KBS reported Monday citing Chinese government sources.

Aides to Kim Jong-un planned to assassinate Jong-nam, who lives in Macau, after first eliminating his close aides in North Korea. The sources said, “It seems they tried to assassinate Kim Jong-nam without telling Kim Jong-il.”

The plan was foiled when the Chinese government found out about it early last week. “The Chinese government warned North Korea to stop the assassination attempt, and sent intelligence and military officers to Macau and spirited Kim Jong-nam to a safe place,” the sources said.

In protest against North Korea’s nuclear test and the assassination plan, China reportedly shelved all collaboration projects with North Korea such as developing natural resources and building infrastructure, part of projects celebrating the “China-North Korea Friendship Year.” The sources said China also delivered a message that it would halt food and fuel assistance if North Korea continues its provocations.

The sources said the reason China was protecting Kim Jong-nam is because he has been developing friendships with high-ranking Chinese officials for a long time. KBS said Kim Jong-nam is likely to weigh option of seeking asylum in China.

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National Geographic Documentary Of North Korea