Some undesirable end states for Korea

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I’m ecstatic to see that North Korea is not only talking about denuclearization, but is also willing to conduct direct negotiations with the U.S. and end the Korean War. In the past, it seemed all we ever got from North Korea was more demands with little promise of anything in return. Sure, it could all be a ruse, but I’m guessing that there is at least a little bit of genuine desire for peace.

Most people in the U.S. are probably thinking of a peace treaty and eventual reunified Korea, with the accompanying butterflies and rainbows. However, there are two darker aspects we should probably consider:

1. China invades North Korea.
One of the conditions that North Korea stopped insisting on was the removal of all U.S. troops from the peninsula. We have something on the order of ~30,000 troops in the area, and when we’ve gone to reduce or otherwise hand over military duties to South Korea, they have kindly asked for us to stay “just a little bit longer.” This obviously makes it harder for North Korea to run a limited war on the peninsula, but it really makes it harder for China to dominate, and it provides a convenient excuse to put troops right up near China’s border, not to mention their maritime access to the Bohai Gulf.

But what if China simply invaded North Korea and deposed Kim Jong Un? Think about it. China could run their own puppet government and unite the peninsula, and this would alleviate the need to keep troops there. If the U.S. refused, we’d look pretty dumb. Probably the only thing preventing China from doing this is the sheer volume of humanitarian support North Korea will need, however, China may decide this is a small price to pay for it’s ever growing economy.

2. Kim Jong Un demands safety for his family. All this talk about peace should beg the question: what to do with Kim Jong Un and his family when this is over? The man is a true criminal, having not only assassinated his own people, but also defied the United Nations. His country is starving while he grows large. What is Kim Jong Un promises to leave, but demands protection for him and his family in Switzerland? Would we tolerate this? Would we be happy allowing a war criminal to eventually die peacefully while we discover the horrors hidden inside North Korea?

We should be thinking about these things now, because both will cloud the peace process.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

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