As others have noted, there is nothing good to say on behalf of North Korea's recently departed "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il. We can safely assume that he is finding something other than virgins in his journey onward.
His death should end any hope for negotiation and implementation of a new nuclear pact. There was no reason to believe that Kim wanted to give up his nuclear program. Now whoever hopes to succeed him would be a fool to propose giving up the nuclear program. Imagine calling the generals together: I'd like your support and, by the way, I suggest that we give up your biggest toy.
Twenty-something Kim Jong-un, known informally as the "Cute Leader," may win the official designation as Kim Jong-il's successor, but there are many potential claimants to power. The younger Kim's aunt and uncle, for two. As well as a gaggle of Korean Worker's Party functionaries and military men who have been waiting a long time for the Kim dynasty to end. The North likely is in for a period of political instability, with the possibility of violent conflict.
Alas, China is not likely to be helpful. Beijing wants stability, in the guise of North Korea's continued survival. The Chinese would prefer more pliable leadership in Pyongyang, not democratic reforms or, worse, a united Korea.
The U.S. should simply stay out of the way and watch while South Korea takes whatever steps it believes necessary to protect against the impact of a breakdown in the North.
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