Washington: The Obama administration is greeting with a shrug an expected North Korean political convention that could see the public debut of the country`s next ruler.
World leaders come and go, even in totalitarian North Korea; the important thing, US officials say, is for the country to live up to past nuclear disarmament promises.
As North Korea hints that a meeting that could promote Kim Jong Il`s son as successor is imminent, the United States has steered clear of prediction, saying it is unclear whether a new leader would spark change.
"We`re watching the leadership process and don`t have any idea yet how it`s going to turn out," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said this week. She made clear that the US goal is "to try to convince whoever is in leadership in North Korea that their future would be far better served by" giving up their nuclear ambitions.
The meeting would be the biggest since a 1980 gathering where Kim Jong Il made his public debut as future leader. Kim reportedly is suffering from health problems and is thought to be grooming his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, to continue the ruling dynasty that began with Kim Jong Il`s father, Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994.
State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said it is hard to say whether new North Korean leadership would make a difference in US policy.
"Leaders of all stripes change around the world. Leaders don`t live forever," Crowley said. "What we`re looking for is a change in the direction of North Korean policy and North Korean actions."