The United States has come up with scenarios to cope with any contingencies in North Korea after leader Kim Jong-il's death, the commander of the US Pacific Command said.
"We are prepared to execute a wide range of options in concert with allies in South Korea and in discussions through (the Department of) State, which would have the lead, with countries in the region, and internationally if necessary," Adm. Timothy Keating said on Wednesday at Pentagon.
"I don't think it is axiomatic that the departure of Kim Jong-il means a national security crisis. We'd hope it wouldn't. But we are going to be prepared if it does mean that," he said.
Keating's remarks come amid allegations that Kim Jong-il has been pushing ahead with nuclear and missile tests to pave the way for a smooth power transition to his third and youngest son Jong-un, 26, after he apparently suffered a stroke last summer.
"What would happen if and when he cedes control or is no longer capable of exercising control? Don't know," the commander said. "But I can tell you that we have plans with the United States Forces-Korea and others in place if the president tells us to execute those plans in the event of some uncertain succession in the North," he added.
The commander made his remarks as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with her counterparts from South Korea, China, Japan and Russia, members of the six-party talks on ending North Korea's ambitions, in Phuket, Thailand, on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum.