**Posted by Phineas
“I’ve got some bad news, boss…”
To paraphrase Whoopie Goldberg, I’m pretty sure these weren’t “leaked-leaked,” so much as deliberately slipped to the Japanese, knowing they’d go public. It’s a not-so-subtle to warning to Dear Leader III: “If things fall apart, don’t count on us to bail you out:”
China has drawn up detailed contingency plans for the collapse of the North Korean government, suggesting that Beijing has little faith in the longevity of Kim Jong-un’s regime.
Documents drawn up by planners from China’s People’s Liberation Army that were leaked to Japanese media include proposals for detaining key North Korean leaders and the creation of refugee camps on the Chinese side of the frontier in the event of an outbreak of civil unrest in the secretive state.
The report calls for stepping up monitoring of China’s 879-mile border with North Korea.
Any senior North Korean military or political leaders who could be the target of either rival factions or another “military power,” thought to be a reference to the United States, should be given protection, the documents state.
According to Kyodo News, the Chinese report says key North Korean leaders should be detained in special camps where they can be monitored, but also prevented from directing further military operations or taking part in actions that could be damaging to China’s national interest.
The report suggests “foreign forces” could be involved in an incident that leads to the collapse of internal controls in North Korea, resulting to millions of refugees attempting to flee. The only route to safety the vast majority would have would be over the border into China.
“Foreign forces,” of course, being the United States and South Korea. Kim Jong Un’s behavior since taking power, from hysterical rhetoric to live-fire artillery drills in sensitive areas to his penchant for executing rivals in various
psychopathic creative ways, and especially his continued pursuit of nuclear weapons, has to worry governments with security interests in Northeast Asia. And the last thing anyone wants is a Korean conflict that might again force Beijing to come to Pyongyang’s aid and place Chinese forces in combat against Americans. North Korea’s behavior has become unpredictable since L’il Kim took power, and a lack of predictability in Great Power relations makes everyone nervous. Hence a the message to Kim that’s about as subtle as a gun to the face: instead of helping you, we may put you in a camp, instead.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this Chinese report comes out at just about the same time we learn of credible reports that North Korea has developed nuclear warheads that can fit on an ICBM. Missiles that can reach the United States:
According to the 16-page report, “The North Korean Nuclear Threat to the United States,” the Defense Intelligence Agency stated in an unclassified assessment made public a year ago that “DIA assesses with moderate confidence the North [Korean government] currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles.”
“This is disturbing news,” the report says. “The North Korean regime is one of the most fanatic, paranoid, and militaristic dictatorships on the planet. … While North Korea has long made occasional nuclear attack threats, the scope, magnitude, and frequency of these threats have vastly increased in 2013.”
North Korea has in the recent months issued provocative threats to carry out nuclear strikes on U.S. cities and against American allies.
By the way, the Obama administration is trying to deny the conclusions in this report, because it doesn’t fit with their diplomacy. Feel reassured.
Anyway, back to Chinese planning for a North Korean collapse, one has to wonder if the Chinese haven’t seen the same information as DIA (they have much better contacts than we with the regime, though they’ve worsened in recent years) and decided to let Pyongyang know that no help would be coming their way if they decided to play a game of nuclear chicken with us. Quite the contrary, in fact. In that case, it might even be in China’s interests to euthanize its ally before it could push us over the edge. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out they have a North Korean general on tap for a convenient coup, or that they were prepared to invade, themselves. For fraternal, humanitarian reasons, of course.
And let’s keep in mind that a military crisis might not be the catalyst for a North Korean state failure: East Germany fell apart after the Soviets left from sheer exhaustion, and the Soviet Union just sort of twitched and dissolved without us having to fire a shot. North Korea is subject to periodic severe famines, and the economy can’t produce what the people need. They’re only held in line through terror and constant propaganda — what if that suddenly stops working? Or what if some general decides he doesn’t want to be the next to go up against the wall? Rather than a military confrontation, Beijing might find itself dealing with hundreds of thousands of starving Koreans looking for food. Better to use the People’s Liberation Army to “restore order” south of the Yalu and keep those people from overwhelming the neighboring regions of Manchuria.
It’s a lot of speculation, I realize, which is all we have when dealing with a black box like North Korea. But, that the Chinese are taking the possibility of sudden regime collapse so seriously (and this isn’t the first time they’ve warned Pyongyang) means we should, too.
via Walter Russell Mead
RELATED: Earlier posts on North Korea.
(Crossposted at Public Secrets)