Posted on December 19, 2011 at 6:00 PM
Monday, Dec 19 at 7:05 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. John McCain said Monday the world is better off now that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has died and predicted that the dictator would join the likes of Adolf Hitler "in a warm corner of hell."
McCain's political colleagues, including GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, joined the prominent and outspoken senator in saying bluntly that Kim will not be missed after decades of oppression and threatening the world with his nuclear program.
"I can only express satisfaction that the Dear Leader is joining the likes of Gadhafi, bin Laden, Hitler and Stalin in a warm corner of hell," said McCain, the top-ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee.
Kim's departure leaves gaping uncertainty over whether his untested son Kim Jong Un would survive the palace intrigue and power jockeying in the wake of his father's passing.
"North Korea's new leadership should seize this as an opportunity ... to open up, stop threatening and attacking its neighbors, stop proliferating weapons of mass destruction, and stop starving its own people," said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich. "North Korea's recent history does not give me much reason for optimism, however, and the U.S. and our allies should be prepared for the worst."
Pete Hoekstra, the former Michigan congressman who served as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the U.S. has no clue what will happen in the wake of Kim's death.
"Getting access into the inner dynamics of North Korea has always been hard," said Hoekstra, who is running for the Senate. "It was always a place where the majority of (intelligence) briefings would start out, 'We believe ...'"
As little as a year ago when Hoekstra left the post, intelligence on North Korea was spare, derived mostly from signals intelligence such as intercepted communications, but few human sources, he said.
Spies need both to help cross-check tips from intercepted snatches of conversation with people on the ground.
Paul Stares, with the Center on Foreign Relations, said the U.S. would be watching closely three upcoming public events — Kim's funeral, his son's birthday celebration and the state's annual New Year's address. Questions to be answered: Who is the new leader speaking to? Who is standing around him? Does China attend? Who do they send?
"These are all critical signs for us," said Stares.