"These runways are located near Kim family compounds - sometimes within the security perimeters - and next to private train stations that were used by Kim Jong Il," Curtis Melvin of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Washington told Reuters.
Kim has given us three methods of taking him out:
- a missile or torpedo launched against his yacht,
- a bomb placed either on his personal railway coach or on the tracks, or
- a surface-to-air missile launched against a plane, either taking off from or landing at one of the landing strips.
#1 is probably a bad choice because North Koreans looking for a better future would require too much assistance, i.e. how could they arrange for a ship to attack the Marshal? #2 might also be a poor choice because the tracks are probably heavily guarded. #3 could work because it would be difficult for the DPRK to look everywhere for a person waiting with a hand-held missile. His father only traveled by train and even then there were attempts to kill him.
On-the-ground intelligence would greatly assist in this endeavor, especially given that Kim would become enraged after a failed attempt, i.e. we might only have one shot at it. And the collateral damage would be significant in any case.
It might be necessary to give a few hand-held missiles to the assassins, but the weapons would need to be Chinese or Russian to ensure plausible deniability for the West.
There is likely no succession plan for Kim, only the usual cult of personality slogans. His father, Kim Jong-il, only started planning after he suffered major medical problems in 2008, with Plan A being Kim Jong-nam, his eldest son, but when Jong-nam attempted to visit Tokyo Disneyland using a forged passport, Plan B became Jong-un, the youngest son. The death of Kim would create an opening for South Korea, but it would need to play its cards right.
It would be very different than the death of Stalin in the Soviet Union because the three generations of Kim have been revered as gods. It is conceivable that one of the other sons, Jong-nam or Jong-chul, or the sister, Sul-song, could assume power, but all of these are problematic. Jong-nam has lived in exile since the mid-2000s and lives in Macau or Singapore. Jong-chul was not chosen to lead the DPRK because he is not ruthless like his father and younger brother. Sul-song is the wild card, as she is close to Jong-un and serves in the propaganda department, but given that the DPRK's leadership is virtually 100% male (see photo #6, which shows no women, taken at the most holy of DPRK sites, the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun), it might be difficult for her to seize power.
"In Kim Jong Il’s final will, [Sul-song] is named as the replacement for Kim Kyong Hui,” said North Korea leadership expert Michael Madden, referring to Kim Il-sung's sister, a/k/a the ex-wife of the executed Jang Song-taek. After Jang's execution, DPRK official news media exhorted its people to stay loyal to the "blood line" that started with Kim Il-sung. Kyong-hui is suspected to have instigated Jang's demise because of his many dalliances.
As soon as Kim's death was confirmed, the ROK would need to communicate that it is willing to donate food to keep the DPRK going, with the stipulation that unarmed South Koreans ensure that it is actually given to people in need. The attitude would need to be similar to the one expressed during the collapse of the Berlin Wall in Germany: Wir sind ein Volk (we are one people). The details of reunification could wait until the humanitarian issues have been resolved. South Korea must treat North Korea as a brother thought lost at sea not one who has just escaped from prison.