October 7, 2017

THE CHINESE TAKEOVER OF NORTH KOREA: This is a speculative scenario written by a former Economist editor, Bill Emmott. Project Syndicate published it about a month ago. It’s not too different from a couple of other “China intervenes” scenarios I’ve read in the last 15 years. But it’s a good read. The goal of China’s military intervention isn’t combat, but convincing the North Korean military to help remove the Kim regime.

Whereas a nuclear exchange with the US would mean devastation, submission to China would promise survival, and presumably a degree of continued autonomy. For all except those closest to Kim, the choice would not be a difficult one.

China’s strategic gains from a successful military intervention would include not only control of what happens on the Korean Peninsula, where it presumably would be able to establish military bases, but also regional gratitude for having prevented a catastrophic war.


Could it work? We can’t know the answer for sure, and any military intervention carries great risks. The Chinese armed forces are now well equipped, but lack comparable battlefield experience. Their inferior opponents have leaders who might be prepared to use nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction, if they did not simply accept Chinese terms and surrender.

What we can say with near certainty is that a Chinese land and sea invasion, rather than an American one, would stand a better chance of avoiding Kim’s likely response: an artillery attack on the South Korean capital, Seoul, which lies just a few dozen miles south of the demilitarized zone.

In June StrategyPage.com published an analysis of China’s relationships with North Korea and South Korea. You’ll have to scroll down to the Korea section of the update to read that a united Korea “is something China is willing to go to war over to prevent, or at least make some serious moves in that direction.” The Project Syndicate scenario maintains the division of Korea.

Today the Voice of America published an article discussing the China intervention scenario and the comments President Trump made at the White House last Thursday. Following a visit to the White House by top U.S. military leaders, President Trump said the White House event was (quoting VOA) “the calm before the storm.’ When reporters asked the president to elaborate on “the storm,” he simply said: “you’ll find out.'”

Today President Trump fired two tweets at North Korea:

“Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid……”

“…hasn’t worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, makings fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work!”

The Donald is messing with Rocket Man. Trump is giving the Kim regime a relentless dose of its own threat-theater bombast, an information warfare tactic it is not used to dealing with. It isn’t all theater. The U.S. and its allies back the verbal and tweet theatrics with shows of powerful and credible military force. Of course Trump appalls mainstream media, but so what. The tactic forces the Kim regime to recognize the game has changed. Does it mean war is imminent? Stay tuned.