• Tue
  • Sep 2, 2014
  • Updated: 11:41pm

North Korea

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is a country in East Asia, located in the northern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering South Korea and China. Its capital, Pyongyang, is the country's largest city by both land area and population. It is a single-party state led by the Korean Workers' Party (KWP), and governed by Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un since 2012. It has a population of 24,052,231 (UN-assisted DPRK census 2008) made up of Koreans and a smaller Chinese minority. Japan 'opened' Korea in 1876 and annexed it in 1910. The Republic of Korea (ROK) was founded with US support in the south in August 1948 and the Soviet-backed Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the north in September that year. 


US, China should agree buffer line in case North Korea collapses, report says

Rand Corp report urges China, US planning to avoid war if Kim Jong-un regime fails suddenly

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 September, 2013, 9:25am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 September, 2013, 2:18am

The United States should consider negotiating a separation line with China in a collapsed North Korea, a study said on Thursday, warning of catastrophic consequences if Kim Jong-Un’s regime suddenly falls.

The report by Rand Corp, a prominent US research institute, said that the crumbling of the totalitarian state could trigger a new, severe famine as well as a human rights crisis in a country that holds hundreds of thousands of prisoners.

The United States and its ally South Korea would almost certainly intervene, causing alarm in China, which is North Korea’s primary ally, the study said.

China, whose perceived interests include stemming the flow of refugees and preventing US forces from approaching its border, could also send troops into North Korea and risk a confrontation with US or South Korean forces that could quickly escalate, the report said.

“The best way to minimize such accidents is to define a separation line for Chinese forces versus [South Korean] and US forces,” the study said.

The line could be as far north as 50km into North Korea from the Chinese border or as far south as the capital Pyongyang, it said.

Bruce Bennett, the author of the study, acknowledged that the idea would be unpopular in South Korea and evoke the division of Germany after World War II.

The Korean peninsula itself has remained split since the 1950-53 war that pitted the United States and its Western allies against a pre-industrial China.

“Establishing a line like that is really not a good idea - it’s politically bad - but on the other hand, having a war with China is even worse, I think,” Bennett said.

“And so ultimately we may have to create a line that says the Chinese won’t go south, we won’t go north,” he said.

The United States and South Korea should coordinate with China on key priorities such as bringing food into North Korea and securing the country’s nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, the study said.

China, which may seek to support a faction of the former North Korean regime, should agree to withdraw forces eventually and allow reunification, likely under the auspices of a UN Security Council resolution, the Rand report said.

But UN resolutions can take time and it would be “far preferable” to agree with China on guidelines ahead of a North Korean collapse, it said.

Bennett said he researched the report due to concern that the key countries had not spoken enough to each other about what to do if the impoverished state implodes.

“Maybe the probability of a North Korean collapse in the next year is two per cent. That’s a dangerous two per cent,” he said.

“What’s the probability that your house burns? It’s probably not two per cent, it’s a lot less, but do you have fire insurance? I do,” he said.

The study did not try to predict a time for a North Korean collapse but expected the regime would fall eventually.

One of the likeliest scenarios for a collapse, according to the study, would be an assassination of Kim Jong-Un.

Kim, who replaced his late father Kim Jong-Il in December 2011, is believed to be in his late 20s and has not designated a successor.

The sudden loss of a central leader could lead to factions running North Korea, bringing anarchy and severely impeding food distribution, the study said.

Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans starved to death in the mid-1990s after the break-up of the Soviet Union ended a key source of aid.


Related topics

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Seems to me Mr Bruce Bennett is writing about what he hopes will happen rather than what actually will. I could author a study predicting the consequences of a massive meteor wiping out Washington, DC, but what would that prove? First, why would anyone want to displace Marshal Kim Jong Un? What's the upside? Who benefits? Unless the new regime turned over the nukes and opened the border nothing would change. In my opinion, it's all about making money. DPRK elites want goods and services, just like anyone else in the world. The people are impatient for better food and consumer goods. That's what's driving the discussion in the DPRK at the moment. This is why Marshal Kim is making a full court press to build tourism. To bring hard currency into the country. Besides, Marshal Kim is very popular among common people. He's regarded as part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Things are very slowly getting better. If a group makes a move on Marshal Kim, they'd better have a good reason. At the moment, I just don't see one.
1. Contemporary accounts of the Korean War testify that the Chinese Army pushed the U.S. & South Korean forces to the southern tip of Korea because the Chinese troops were battle-hardened veterans (having fought the Japanese and the KMT during the most recent 15 years) who fought with great skill & bravery, and the U.S.' rapid de-mob after WWII left only the least-prepared and least- experienced men, and officers in particular, in Korea.
2. The Korean conflict had reached effective stalemate before Eisenhower became president in January 1953 and peace talks had been underway between the two sides since July 1951. Eisenhower thought the Korean conflict was a hopeless quagmire that ran the risk of nuclear war and his principal objective was to end the conflict before it escalated further. He achieved that goal.
3. Unless the current Chinese leadership is either crazy or stupid (and I believe they are neither), they would never seriously contemplate occupying any part of North Korea for many practical reasons, not the least of which is the fact that they would not want to risk starting WW III.
I respectfully disagree, my friend. If Mexico went belly up, the US surely wouldn't let Russia or China or France or anybody else into the country. For the same reason, China would never let the US north of the DMZ. Especially not the US under the militaristic Barack Obama who likes to export "democracy" at gunpoint. As far as your fears of WW3, that's just not going to happen. Maybe over Syria but not over the DPRK. I wouldn't at all doubt the US Pentagon and State Department have non-interference agreements with the PRC regarding the DPRK. No matter what happens, the US stays firmly south of the DMZ. A few years ago the Pueblo was towed from Wonsan on the east coast all the way around the peninsula, to Pyongyang on the west. The US could have easily taken their ship back in international waters but didn't. Probably because of those agreements.
The collapse of the North Korean regime can lead only to a re-unified Korea. Any other outcome is unthinkable and would be unworkable. While it is certainly possible that a mutual demilitarized zone on the China-Korea border could be negotiated, and that it might include a separate or supplemental agreement on the exclusion of U.S. forces from certain zones in the North, those negotiations would be between the PRC and the sovereign government of a unified Korea, no doubt with the backroom support of the United States.


SCMP.com Account