Kim Jong-Un cannot depend on Chinese intervention should North Korea collapse. In the event of civil war, revolution, or the overthrow of Kim Jong-Un’s government, North Korea is on its own.
Beijing does have a two prong policy of dealing with a civil unrest in North Korea. First, the Chinese will establish refugee camps on the Chinese side of the border. Beijing expects millions of North Koreans entering Manchuria should North Korea experience civil unrest. Second, China will detain North Korean leaders fleeing to China. The message from Beijing comes as a stark shift in its relation to the Hermit Kingdom.
During the Korean War, North Korean troops invaded South Korea in June 1950 and came close to taking the entire peninsula. In September of that year, troops under General MacArthur’s command landed at Inchon near Seoul. UN forces drove the North Koreans to the Chinese border. Victory in 1950 for the UN seemed assured until the Chinese Red Army intervened. In a few short weeks, UN forces fell back past Seoul. In 2014, China’s leadership prefers a noninterference stance concerning North Korea.
Should the government of Kim Jong-Un collapse, a civil war ensues, or unification with South Korea takes place, China will not intervene. Unification would likely be under the stewardship of a South Korean government creating a capitalist society like that found in a united Germany.
Intervention with military forces would mean having Chinese troops confront “foreign forces.” Foreign forces are deemed as a reference to the 28,500 American troops stationed in South Korea.
Two other problems arise from a renewed war on the Korean Peninsula. Technically, the Korean War has not ended. In 1953, an armistice that stopped the fighting was signed. Should North Korea resume the war, the 1950 UN declaration to assist the South Korean people would go back into effect. The USSR boycotted that 1950 UN vote. Chinese forces engaging with South Korean and US troops would bring UN forces into a renewed conflict.
Second, China entering into a war along side North Korea would halt all trade with the West. China is known as the factory of the world. War with the West stops all trade. No trade means Chinese factories go idle. Idle workers become restless workers. Restless workers with bills to pay and families to support create unrest in China.
China is North Korea’s only trading partner. Without Chinese economic support, the government of Kim Jong-Un collapses. A famine struck North Korea from 1994 to 1998. Since the North Korean government would not reveal the number of people who starved to death, estimates of the dead range from 240,000 to 3.5 million.
China does not want a renewed war in the region. Such a conflict would likely be started by a North Korean invasion of South Korea. With the South Korean army better able to defend itself with US support, North Korea would lose without assistance.
Instability leading to a civil war or a revolution represents two scenarios China wants to avoid in North Korea. A dysfunctional government that tortures its people under Kim Jong-Un’s regime is acceptable.
The absolute last option Beijing wants taking place are North Koreans exercising its limited nuclear option. Nuclear testing by Kim Jong-Un’s creates instability in the region. Given time, the North Koreans will develop rockets capable of carrying a nuclear payload. The Chinese do not want their North Korean clients threatening countries such as South Korea or Japan with nuclear missiles.
Kim Jong-Un will continue following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps in the quest to create the worker’s paradise. While the North Korean people live on the brink of starvation, the communist elite live a much better life than the people. At best, Kim Jong-Un can only rely on limited economic support from Beijing. Should Kim Jong-Un’s government endure a civil war, revolution, or collapse, there will be no troops coming from China.
Opinion By Brian T. Yates