The ruling elite of North Korea meet this week and may anoint a successor to Kim Jong-il -- possibly his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, who was made a military general. This leadership transition, however, won't go easily. China needs to stop propping up a weak, violent regime.
The tough economic sanctions set by President Obama against North Korea and its elite are a risky move, but they are set amid a new US strategy to stand up to China and its expanding influence in Asia.
North Korea accused the US Monday of aggressive military moves in the zone separating the two Koreas. The North is undergoing a leadership transition.
The leader, who missed Tuesday's celebration of his country's 60th anniversary, has periodically been reported ill. But the speculation this time assumes greater urgency.