- By David Inung Ejim
America always tries to get its way regardless of whatever obstacle stands in its way and it is that “can-do” spirit more than anything else that has created the modern United States. Sadly, this same ethos might see its demise because nobody wins with Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). The following is my suggestion on how the North Korean nuclear crisis can be solved in a manner that is mutually beneficial to ALL, and by all, I mean, the Kim brood, all of Korea (North & South), China, America and the rest of us who would be collateral damage in the event of nuclear war.
First, some facts:
- America is going to invade North Korea sooner, rather than later. While this isn’t a fact as facts go, this is predictable based on pretty solid FACTS about American hegemony and its geopolitics. The only thing that is ever constant with America when it comes to international relations is its single-minded self-interest (eloquently put by Donald Trump as America First). America would never have invaded North Korea had it never been able to threaten it directly, because in as much as the USA parrots its commitments to defend its allies, their security does not justify the huge cost in lives and resources it would take to resolve the North Korean situation permanently and that is the reason for this multidecade long dance, as North Korea inched ever closer to global threat status.
2. China is going to lose, unless... There are three ways I see China’s action based on current policy trajectory leading to loss. The current likely policy trajectories and their outcomes are:
- If China stays adamantly “neutral” and America wages war against North Korea, the outcome would be much carnage, millions dead, the land terribly irradiated, but out of the rubble, Pax Americana reigns again (too bad South Korea will receive nearly as much destruction as the North).
- If China enters the war on the side of (an uncontrollable) North Korea -who faced with the attempts by America to permanently cripple its nuclear program, eliminate the Kim dynasty and or take over the country is likely to panic and use nuclear weapons, with retaliation and MAD sure to soon follow, or it uses conventional weapons exclusively and all the Korean peninsula is still made a waste as in scenario one, both possibilities leading to Kim Jong-Un ousted/killed-, China would still lose greatly as the best it can achieve is a stalemate, one which would come at great economic and human cost.
- If America magically acts uncharacteristically and never invades North Korea and the state progresses to develop its weapons to completion (ICBMS especially), the outcome would be nuclear proliferation throughout the region, with Japan, South Korea and very soon Indonesia and others (even Taiwan possibly) developing same. Considering North Korea has already shown readiness to sell (to Iran) and illegally purchase (from Pakistanis and others) this technology, it is reasonable to assume that it would have no problem selling to any and all bidders and with a nuclear neighborhood, why will any of the countries currently engaged in maritime disputes with China not seek this defensive capacity? China’s enemies opponents will take up arms and China loses.
So China will either suffer the expansion of American sphere of influence to its borders and a humanitarian crisis with an invasion, or huge losses due to engagement in war and or total destruction, or watch the nuclearization of South East Asia and the negative consequences all of that can bring. America won’t be left out of negative consequences with a nuclear North Korea, but I leave this out because America(ns) don’t need convincing about the need to permanently solve the North Korean problem, China does.
So, what is my plan?
Step 1: China takes out the Kims
The Kim dynasty must end for there to be any feasible peaceful resolution of this conflict. It is important to note the mode of preservation of that dynasty thus far has been through repressive internal control and persistent external aggression, this combo makes belligerence (threats and missile tests) inevitable and thus will always remain an obstacle to peace. China needs to take out that dynasty and I’m confident they have this ability. For decades China has cultivated relations with members of the North Korean military and must have an extensive patronage network within the country. All they need do is use that network to kill eliminate Kim Jong-Un and replace him with a military council that would immediately sue for peace and accept the steps that follow.
*Note 1- China doesn’t actually have to kill Kim, an assassination could be faked and the Kims taken out of China, given facial reconstruction surgery, a wealthy life and all would be fine. Once abducted “to safety” I’m confident even Kim would see this breath of fresh air as an improvement on the constant angst being a dictator brings.
*Note 2- America cannot (or rather should not) do this, because though it technically can assassinate Kim, it lacks the political networks to control the aftermath of that elimination and it would be most foolhardy to plunge an unstable nuclear state into a leadership crisis.
Step 2: National unification and massive reconstruction
Just like East Germany after the fall of the Berlin wall, post-Kim North Korea needs rapid reunification with the South and more importantly, massive investment inflows to boost the socioeconomic conditions of the state. This process cannot be slow or it might allow the rise of opposition to the country’s liberalization. As a matter of fact, the slow pace of integration is the cause of the splitting of this country in the first place as the Soviets and Americans who had mandates over the Korean peninsula after World War 2 didn’t pursue integration soon enough. A concerted effort needs to be made to equalize opportunities in the North with those in the South as greater poverty, mortality & illiteracy rates could spell doom for this union. The investment necessary to achieve this must be given by China, the US and South Korea.
*Note- a representative federal government is key to accelerating this unification as the North needs to feel part of the process and not merely dictated to. For a start, it’s representatives in this joint Korean government can be chosen by China, but it must have elections as soon as feasible (I would recommend, a year). Over time (I would suggest 4 years), this power-sharing agreement can be overturned in favor of a unified Korean government backed by a new constitution.
Step 3: Permanent demilitarization
The North-South border is the most militarized in the world and its immediate demilitarization must be made a priority as this will be the symbolic destruction of the Berlin wall of sorts between both countries. Next, an internationally overseen process of de-nuclearization must begin and all the weapons and nuclear material accounted for, lest they’re exported to another party by nefarious characters. There MUST be a pact signed to guarantee the commitment of a unified Korea to pacifism (like Japan) at best, or safeguards to guarantee the non-positioning of offensive weapons in the northern part of the country. This agreement is essential for allaying Chinese fears and is beneficial to the new country and America as it reduces the possibility of Korea being a flashpoint of Sino-American conflict. In fact, it is the most important thing alongside de-nuclearization that must be done to effectively resolve the conflict. The above three step plan is to my mind very achievable, but it would require an amazing level of collaboration between the US and China which I’m quite skeptical can be mustered right now. Its faultless implementation will require -especially from China- acute vigilance and involvement to forestall America’s characteristic excess creating a flashpoint for subsequent conflict. If implemented, the Kim’s get a paradise somewhere (however unfair you might think that is, it beats the alternative), the people of North Korea gain social, economic and political emancipation, South Korea and Japan lose a source of worry and existential threat, America (and Donald Trump) gets credit for resolving one of the most volatile situations in the world and China gains a more stable neighbor, piece of mind and we all avoid nuclear war. Win! Win!