Kim Jong-il dead: Pentagon war game considers worst-case scenario
News that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is dead has not alarmed the Pentagon. But one of its worst-case scenarios for global security is a failed succession and the collapse of the regime.
While the Pentagon is always planning for contingencies, it was particularlyÂ prescient in its choice of war games the weekÂ before North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il's death.
As one of itsÂ three possible doomsday scenarios,Â the US Army selected â€śThe collapse of North Koreaâ€ť 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. Â Â
Pulled from a paper published by Bruce Bennett and Jennifer Lind atÂ Harvard Universityâ€™s Belfer Center for Science and InternationalÂ Affairs, the scenario begins with the Kim regime "embarking on the most difficultÂ challenge that such regimes face: succession."
â€śThe transition from apparently stability to collapse can be swift,â€ťÂ the scenario says, and â€ścould unleash a series of catastrophes on the peninsula with potentially far-reaching regional and globalÂ effects.â€ť
Among the potential effects would be aÂ massive outflow of the nationâ€™s 24Â million people, many of whom are severely malnourished, across theÂ border.Â Equally, if not more troubling, would be the security of North Korea's arsenal.Â â€śNorth Koreaâ€™s weapons of mass destruction could find their way out ofÂ the country and onto a global market,â€ť the authors say.
While war games areÂ useful preparation for the worst eventualities, theÂ Pentagon has long been planning forÂ Kim Jong-ilâ€™s death.
The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review â€“ the Defense Departmentâ€™s top strategy documentÂ â€“ warns that â€śstability or collapse of a WMD-armedÂ state is among our most troubling concerns.â€ť
But â€śto this point, we have not seen anyÂ change in North Korean behavior of a nature that would alarm us,â€ťÂ the nation's top military officer, Chairman of the JointÂ Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, told reporters traveling with him on aÂ trip to the Middle East.
He learned of Kim Jong-ilâ€™s death â€śin the middle of the night,â€ť he said.Â While he quickly consulted with â€śthe chain of command,â€ť the decisionÂ was made not to put US troops on heightened alert.
â€śNo changes inÂ troop dispositions, no changes in readiness levels,â€ť he said. â€śWeâ€™reÂ simply remaining vigilant.â€ť
â€˘ This article has been excerpted and updated from:Â
Doomsday war games: Pentagon's 3 nightmare scenarios