WASHINGTON - The US government got its first warning North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had died from an intelligence unit that monitors media reporting around the world, two US officials said.
The officials said the Open Source Center, a branch of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, first relayed the news to the US government a day or more after Kim actually died.
Despite the time lag, several US officials insisted this was not an intelligence failure in tracking events in isolated and unpredictable North Korea, which is trying to build a nuclear arsenal.
US officials also said the transition of power in Pyongyang appears to be proceeding smoothly despite speculation that the inexperience of Kim Jong-un, the dead leader's youngest son and designated successor, could lead to a struggle among regime insiders.
"We have not seen any unusual North Korean troop movements since the death of Kim Jong-il. That would be one indicator of a less than smooth transition," said George Little, a Pentagon spokesman. "This appears to be a relatively smooth transition on the peninsula and we hope it stays that way."