StrategyPage reports on the latest weirdness from inside North Korea:
Since 2013 North Korea has increased the pressure on corrupt officials, even executing leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle for stealing. There has also been a crackdown on any senior leaders who seem to lack loyalty or dedication. Thus a senior defense ministry official was recently executed for falling asleep in a meeting. A lot of these loyalty and corruption problems are the result of economic issues, which some North Korean leaders blame on China. That is made worse by China demanding that North Korea halt its nuclear program and follow Chinese advice (free the economy) to deal with the growing economic crisis. Turning up the heat on its unstable and increasingly troublesome neighbor has not worked. In late 2014 China told North Korea that it could no longer depend on automatic Chinese support if North Korea got involved in a war. China cut off various forms of aid but that did not change North Korean refusal to reform its economy and get rid of its nukes. Not only did North Korea refuse but increased its public defiance of China. What makes this really painful for China is that they are simply asking North Korea to improve their economy using what worked for China (which remains a communist police state).
See, this is why I like having Apple Watch remind me to stand up and move around once every hour — it keeps me from falling asleep during meetings and then executed by anti-aircraft guns or zapped and eaten by sharks with fricken laser beams.
More seriously, I’ve argued on this page for a decade or longer now, that the least bad thing that could feasibly happen to North Korea would be a lightning invasion by Chinese paratroopers, followed by heavier forces if needed.
The South Koreans couldn’t get the job done without risking a wider war, and so long as the DMZ was respected, the South might quietly acquiesce. And in any case, in the 21st Century China wouldn’t tolerate a Unified Korea aligned to the West any more than it tolerated the threat of one in 1950.
It’s up to Beijing to play the kingmaker — if they dare.