By John T. Bennett - 12/21/11 08:15 PM EST
Calling it "peaceful transition" of power, the Pentagon on Wednesday said it has detected no unusual North Korean military actions in the wake of Kim Jong Il's death.
Kim's son, Kim Jong Un, is widely viewed as the next leader of the Asian nation, but experts say several other powerful factions could make a grab for partial or full power. That list includes the North Korean military.
The U.S. military's top commanders on the Korean Peninsula have been in regular contact with their South Korean counterparts as both nations keep close tabs on the first days of the post-Kim Jong Il era, the spokesmen said.
Kim Jong Il was an unpredictable leader who kept his people living under dire conditions, while also defying the world on issues like his nuclear weapons program.
"This is an opportunity" for the new North Korean regime to "join the family of nations," said Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby.
Some lawmakers, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), have called on North Korea's closest ally, China, to step in and ensure that North Korea's actions following its longtime leader's death are stable ones — both at home and on the global stage.
U.S. military officials have not spoken to their Chinese counterparts, Kirby said, largely because the handover of power "looks relatively peaceful."
But, he stressed, a post-Kim Jong Il North Korea is just the latest addition to the list of issues on which the Pentagon would like to work more closely with the Chinese military, Kirby said.