31 July 2017


North Korea represents an imminent threat to world peace. The problem remains what to do about it. Diplomacy has failed and war would be disastrous. It has been said there are no good options for resolving this situation, but this is not necessarily true. There is in fact a deal we can make to eliminate this problem, outlined below.

The administration is correct in assuming that China is the key to eliminating the menace from North Korea, for as its main supplier, it continues to prop up the regime. However,  the approach is wrong. We are not offering China any incentive to stop supporting the Kim regime. Additional pressure will not work as long as vital Chinese interests are not taken into consideration. We can hardly expect the Chinese to assist in undermining a regime that would bring a US ally, which has  American troops stationed on its territory, to China’s border in a united Korea. They may even find the north to be a useful foil in irritating the Americans. The only way to resolve this situation is to take these concerns into account.

At the same time the US has had troops interminably stationed in South Korea for generations since the end of the Korean War, with no end in sight. This has come at enormous cost, defending a country that at this point is wealthy and prosperous, with i.e. better infrastructure Internet service than the US has. It would be highly beneficial to America’s interests to bring these troops home, if conditions were right. 

The North Korean regime is unquestionably evil, oppressing, starving, and brainwashing its people, who as a result of living in this socialist paradise are actually several inches shorter than the South Koreans. It is a society without any redeeming characteristics, which now presents an imminent nuclear threat to the US, Japan, and South Korea. The world would be a much better place without it. The problem then is how to bring this about short of war, which soon may become inevitable if no palatable alternative is found, as the north continues to develop missiles and threaten the US in no uncertain terms. 

The answer is to make it worth it to the Chinese to completely cut off North Korea, by offering them a deal they can hardly refuse. This would consist of agreeing to withdraw American forces from South Korea if the north is allowed to collapse and preferably become peacefully reunified with the south. This would assuage the Chinese concern about American forces on their border while at the same time providing blessed relief to American taxpayers. This is an arrangement that would be in everyone’s interests, and given President Trump’s enthusiasm for deal making it is a win-win outcome the administration ought to embrace. If present circumstances continue there will simply be no alternative to war, insofar as the US and its allies cannot tolerate this continuing existential threat. This is a way out for both the US and China, and it is time to make a concerted effort. Let’s make the deal. 


  1. Hi,

    Your plan would work ONLY if US waited for NK regime to have finished collapsing completely before withdrawing US troops; otherwise it'd be an invitation for the N to invade the S and survive that way.

    But China would not trust that we'd proceed to withdraw after a full NK collapse. And we'd in fact have good reason not to withdraw and leave chaos.

    Also China doesn't want to see a reunified Korea under a democratic market regime. It believes, like the dominant Putin elite in Russia, that America and the West are a gravitational vacuum so powerful that it'll suck into its orbit anything that's not under the control of (a) China, (b) Russia, or (c) its own independent authoritarian regime replete with an anti-Western deep state apparatus.

    So, frankly, your solution, while superficially attractive, won't work. Nothing wrong with offering it to China, but China won't bite. Not unless something more, and more realistic, is offered.

    The more likely (i.e. more likely to work if tried) solution is to invite China to invade and take over NK lock stock and barrel. China could do so in the course of a NK collapse, or sooner under the guise of a friendly incursion to head off and protect NK from an otherwise inevitable US attack, or in the name of enforcing the will of the international community in lieu of the US doing so.

    China would get strategic territory out of this, secured against falling into the orbit of America-Western control in the only way China believes in - by putting it under its own control. The US, SK, Japan, and the West would get out of it the end of the NK nuclear nightmare.

    However the US would have to set its minimum conditions for tolerating or even inviting China's doing this, such as: 1 - China must completely eliminate the independent WMD and missile forces and programs of the NK regime, whether by destroying them or by taking them to China; 2 - China must take full legal ownership of and responsibility for the future government of the territory, as a legal protectorate or even by annexation, not just modify the NK regime slightly and leave it with its independent authority to have a military and conduct foreign policy; 3 - China must give SK a security zone, patrolled and controlled by SK but without any US forces there, stretching for some distance north of the 38th parallel, 4 - China must guarantee to S Koreans full access to all of NK for family reunions, travel, and economic intercourse, and guarantee all N Koreans rights of travel and emigration to S Korea.

    One could fairly ask whether the US and SK could trust China to do all 4 things. That would be the best objection to this plan. That it's as unrealistic as your plan, once we get to the nitty gritty. You could argue, reasonably, that your plan could be offered to China as a supplement or substitute for it, let China make the choice which way to do it.

    However, it is probably on the whole pretty realistic. Once Chinese forces were in control of NK's territory, China would be likely to do point 1, disarming NK of all WMD and related programs, as in its own security interest, and essential for future stability on the Korean peninsula, and for China's reputation in the world. Point 2 would also be in China's own interest. Even points 3 and 4 would be probable, but if China didn't enact them quickly, they would become a prerequisite for a peace treaty with SK and the US ending the Korean War, and China would find them worth it for that purpose.

    Would SK accept losing half or more of NK to the Chinese empire, in return for genuine peace and security? Probably yes; they don't really want to have to pay the social and economic cost of integrating the N Korean population.

    One could also come up with a scenario for inviting Russia to do essentially the same things.

    1. That is certainly an alternative possibility. Either way we need to make some kind of deal with China to get rid of this problem.

  2. Agreed. Or else pay the price of doing it ourselves.

    It'd be a high price. But that's what we said a decade ago when the price would have been much smaller. It'll be much higher still if we wait even another year.

    The cost of resolving it seems to go up by an order of magnitude every decade it is left unresolved. Another decade lost and the cost will probably be the complete nuclear annihilation of the U.S. Another decade after that, the whole world.