Speaking on the Madeleine Brand Show, Carnegie's Douglas Paal explained that the death of Kim Jong Il marks the beginning of a succession process that may last months or even years, as his son and designated heir Kim Jong Un attempts to consolidate power among the ruling elite. For its part, the United States should remain particularly cautious and prepare for possible contingencies. While North Korea has yet to fully convert  its nuclear materials into fully deliverable weapons, its artillery could pose a serious threat to neighboring South Korea. A split within the North Korean military could also produce domestic instability or even a civil war, with devastating consequences, Paal concluded.