The prospect of a North Korean collapse has been receiving a great deal of attention lately and for good reason. Kim Jong Un has been in power for just under twenty-six months. During that time, he has faced challenges from North Korea’s military leadership and most recently executed Jang Song-Thaek, his uncle. From the information coming out of the region, the move appears to be punishment for Song-Thaek plotting against his nephew. For whatever reason, Un viewed his uncle as a potential threat and dealt with him accordingly.
In the aftermath of the gruesome execution, it is fair to wonder if North Korea will soon collapse like the Denver Broncos did at the Super Bowl yesterday here in New Jersey. Sorry, I had to say it.
North Korea is a paradox far beyond description or explanation. In the spirit of that reality, it is safe to say that the interests of the United States and our Pacific allies might best be served by Kim Jong Un remaining in firm control of North Korea. As depraved and incompetent as Un has been, it’s better to deal with North Korea as a sovereign nation-state rather than a decapitated and ruderless North Korea. The level of uncertainty and the potential dangers which the later option could bring are worrisome to say the least.
Below, I’ve listed five questions that need to be pondered by politicians, diplomats and leaders in the US, ROK (South Korea) Japan, and PRC. Admittedly, these are only five questions of many that exist on the subject. Because of time constraints, I am not able to give my answers at the moment. In the meantime, please feel free to mull the questions over and see what kind of answers you come up with.
- How will the North Korean military react to a government collapse, and how will it behave in the aftermath?
- How much, if any, advance warning will the US, ROK and China have prior to a North Korean collapse?
- In the event of a collapse what will become of North Korea’s WMD stockpiles? Who will have control of them?
- Obedience to the state is a cornerstone of life in North Korea. Given this, how will the North Korean populace respond to a collapse of the government they have been conditioned to follow for their entire lives?
- If the ROK responds instantly and unilaterally to a North Korean collapse with the objective of reunifying the peninsula under Seoul’s leadership it could potentially lead to war with China. What steps can the US take to prevent its ally from moving down that dangerous path?