Thursday, November 25, 2010

How China Can Take Down North Korea--And Benefit In The Long Run

I was checking out CNN the other day and I found this article.

This is something similar to an idea I've had and posted on my alternate-history forum (we have a political-chat section).

Basically, North Korea is heavily dependent on China for 40% of its food and a larger percentage of its energy--I cannot recall how much, but I'm thinking 60% at least.  The news analysts I've read have suggested that without Chinese support, North Korea will collapse.  The Chinese know this and have been sustaining the North Korean regime in order to avoid a refugee crisis on their border and avoid the unification of Korea under Seoul, a move they fear would lead to U.S. troops on the Yalu River, their border with the Koreas.  This was one of the reasons they intervened in the Korean War, preventing the odious Kim regime from being plowed under half-a-century early.

However, the Cold War is over and China is one of our larger business partners.  We really have no reason to use Korea as a springboard to invade China and consequently, they have no reason to fear us doing so.  The only potential flashpoint between us and them is Taiwan and that grows less and less likely due to increasing Taiwanese investment in China and trade between the two.

So if China cuts off support for North Korea and the Northern regime collapses, the Chinese will likely have to deal with refugees, but not a hostile army on their border.

Here's where China's gain comes in.  China right now is sitting on mountains of foreign exchange and their economy has been growing at a brisk clip despite the global recession.  They have huge amounts of cash, which they've been investing in resource-producing ventures in Africa and other places.

They could easily make some deal with Seoul, the U.S., or both in which, after the North collapses, the U.S. will withdraw its soldiers from the Korean Peninsula back to Japan and the Chinese will fund the reconstruction of the North, which is a basket case far worse than East Germany ever was.

China will benefit by no longer having to subsidize North Korea, by removing U.S. troops from their backyard, and gaining massive investment opportunities in newly-united Korea.  Unless China starts treating Korea as a colony, they will gain an ally.  After all, trade between South Korea and China is fairly extensive ($100 billion as of 2006), and both of them are not fans of the Japanese, to put it lightly.  A united Korea allied to China is a geographic dagger pointed at the heart of Japan, a thought that I would imagine fills the hearts of the Japanophobes over there with glee.

South Korea will benefit by not having their capital under constant threat of the North's masses of artillery and not having to put up with constant provocations from the North for fear they'd use that artillery.  Furthermore, the decades-long artificial division of Korea by foreigners will have ended and the massive costs of bringing the North up to South Korea's standards will be largely borne by the Chinese.  Plus the North has large amounts of natural resources Southern businessmen can exploit, although in my scenario, the Chinese would make a grab for those as well.

Although the situation will be, in the short run, very painful for the North Koreans, in the long run, they will be freed from the atrocious rule of the Kim Dynasty without a war that could and likely would kill millions of people.

(The Korean War killed two to four million people, IIRC, and a second war could involve the use of nuclear weapons against South Korea and/or Japan and consequent retaliation in kind from the United States.  It would get bad.)

The United States will benefit by having one less foreign commitment, one that could potentially lead to a massive war if the North goes completely psychotic and attacks the South or Japan, which we are treaty-bound to defend.  Furthermore, a united Korea (that has possibly inherited the North's nuclear arsenal) allied to the Chinese will rattle the Japanese and give them incentive to maintain the current arrangement with us.

Of course, the best-laid plans of mice and men do often go awry.  If the Chinese pull the plug on the North, Kim could try something desperate like invade South Korea and take Seoul hostage in order to extort aid to keep his regime in power or, as his little empire crumbles, fire nuclear-tipped missiles at the Chinese as revenge.  Although the Chinese could offer the North's ruling elite asylum in China to give them an alternative between desperate action and being torn apart by their own starving slaves, this may or may not work, depending on connected to reality the Northern leadership is.

Furthermore, a member of the alternate-history forum said China would not allow the North to collapse anytime soon due to the massive amount of blood and treasure expended in the Korean War to keep the Northern regime going.  I think the figure is that one million Chinese soldiers died there, including Mao's son.  The guy on the forum said the relatives of the men who died are still alive and would raise holy hell.

Well, China is an authoritarian state.  Surely they know how to cover up embarrassing political secrets and deal with people who raise holy hell.  The Chinese government could also justify it, should it become known to the general public, by pointing out that North Korea's erratic and violent behavior is most ungrateful (as it causes PR and other problems for the Chinese) and un-harmonious (by disrupting the worldwide economic order).

Obviously the plan has its risks, but it's worth a thought.

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