The White House said Thursday that North Korea’s leadership transition appeared to be in the early stages and it would take some time to discern the final outcome.

Jeff Bader, President Barack Obama’s Asia adviser, made clear, however, that Washington was closely monitoring the political situation in the secretive Communist state after North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s son, Jong-un, gained greater prominence in recent weeks as his father’s likely successor.

“They are clearly in the process of a transition,” Bader told reporter, declining to speculate about how a leadership shift might affect U.S.-led efforts to pressure Pyongyang to curb its nuclear ambitions.