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North Korea Signals Succession Plan as American Reporters Face Trial

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has signaled he plans to have his third son succeed him, while Pyongyang plans a trial for two U.S. reporters: Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who work for Current TV. Analysts examine the developments.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    It's one of the most secretive nations on Earth, and this evening the government of North Korea is expected to further demonstrate how unwelcoming it is as it holds a trial for two American reporters.

    Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who work for Current TV, the cable and Web channel co-founded by former Vice President Al Gore, were arrested on the North Korea-China border in March.

    Their trial comes amid major political changes. Yesterday, word leaked out that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who reportedly suffered a stroke last year, had appointed his third son, 26-year-old Kim Jong Un, as his successor.

    And all of this comes, of course, amid North Korean announcements that it conducted nuclear weapons and several missile tests.

    To help sort out the situation, we're joined now by Victor Cha, director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council from 2004 to 2007. He now holds the Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    And Lucie Morillon, Washington director for Reporters Without Borders, an international non-profit organization dedicated to press freedom.

    Well, Victor Cha, how much do we really know about Kim Jong Un, the designated successor?

    VICTOR CHA, Center for Strategic and International Studies: Well, Jeffrey, we know very little. Actually, we know less about Kim Jong Un than we do about most of the North Korean system. We know that he's the third, the youngest of Kim Jong Il's sons, that he was — this is a son he had with his third wife, and presumably his favorite wife, Ko Yong Hui.

    And he has studied abroad, apparently, for at least a bit of his time, a bit of his formal education. Yet he's clearly young and inexperienced and has none of the revolutionary credentials which are so important for legitimacy within the North Korean system that his grandfather had or that his father has today.

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