Peace & Stability Journal Volume 7, Issue 1 - Page 8

Introduction
North Korea ’ s hereditary rulers have been on “ death watch ” for decades , with many pundits regularly predicting the demise of the “ Kim Family Regime .” Recent collapse scenarios are based on two potentially inter-related events : first , the sudden death of Kim Jong-eun , the 32-year-old Supreme Leader ( so far in reasonably good health but without a male heir ) and second , the emergence of alternative power centers either within the secretive Kim family clan itself or among key security organizations . In turn , these power elites ultimately clash and break up the brittle , centralized regime . Anticipating a new territorial partition driven by internal groups aligning with either China or the South Korean / Western alliance , this “ internal collapse ” school plays down the hoary theme of Korean “ reunification .” Instead , the camp predicts the formal demarcation line between North and South Korea may ultimately be pushed north of the Demilitarized Zone where it has existed since 1953 .
Korean Unification
Reunification of , by , and for the long-divided Korean people has been a basic assumption of Korean studies for most of the past sixty years . It was reaffirmed by North and South Korean leaders at a summit held in Pyongyang in June 2000 . At that time , North Korean Leader Kim Jong-il and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung declared :
1 . The South and the North have agreed to resolve the question of reunification independently and through the joint efforts of the Korean people , who are the masters of the country . 2 . For the achievement of reunification , we have agreed that there is a common element in the South ' s concept of a confederation and the North ' s formula for a loose form of federation . The South and the North agreed to promote reunification in that direction .
Unfortunately , these goals remain aspirational and deny the long history of foreign influences on the Korean peninsula . Few concrete achievements have been recorded to date that would prevent the emergence of a new major power rivalry on the Korean peninsula , one that carves out spheres of influence for China and the South Korean / Western alliance . Whither China after a North Korean Collapse ?
China seems genuinely conflicted about Korean unification . Removing North Korean nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula as a result of unification would eliminate a major threat underpinning the U . S . -South Korea-Japan military alliance . Weakening the alliance would , in turn , allay Chinese fears of encirclement by the U . S . and its allies . In addition ,

6 unification would likely relieve China from supplying the bulk of foreign aid to North Korea since the breakdown in Six-Party Talks in 2009 . China might also be tempted to reinvigorate those talks , pursuing both denuclearization and unification , to burnish its status as a senior statesman above regional power-brokering and to draw attention away from its actions in the South and East China Seas .

On the other hand , China has long relied on North Korea as a buffer state to protect its northeastern flank . If the U . S . were to rebalance its military forces elsewhere in East Asia while enabling a unified Korea to deploy the latest ballistic missile defense system ( Terminal High Altitude Area Defense - THAAD ), China would be left with fewer offensive options and only Russia as a potential defense partner . On balance , China may have concluded that it is better to leave the North Korean card on the table in some form following the possible collapse of the Kim Family franchise . As the Chinese proverb goes , “ Kill the chicken to scare the monkeys .” In other words , China may have calculated its national security risks are more manageable if Korean unification is sacrificed in order to prevent a resurgent , stronger Korea from joining the U . S . and other potential adversaries .
Indeed , Chinese support of recent UN Security Council economic sanctions against North Korea do not necessarily portend a widening break in Sino-North Korean relations . The sanctions actually permit China considerable discretion in how much pressure to apply against its neighbor . China could also take its foot off the sanctions brake if it assesses that the U . S . will go ahead with THAAD introduction in South Korea in 2017 . China can explain its volte face by reasserting its prior claim that sanctions are ineffective in deterring North Korean weapons programs while deepening the tribulations of the long-suffering North Korean people . China , therefore , appears to be in denial about the leverage it can , and does , exert on North Korea .
The Tumen River Valley and Below
In a post-collapse North Korea , China seems best able to influence the provinces near its border , including the Tumen River valley , due to ( 1 ) its widespread economic dominance in the area , ( 2 ) its overriding interest in maintaining a security buffer and exploiting the region ’ s rich mineral resources and eastern seaports close to Russia , and ( 3 ) the large number of North Korean officials and refugees that could assist the Chinese in setting up a pro-Chinese governmental system . South Korea , assuming substantial international aid , is likely to make inroads into setting up a rival system in the southern part of the country , quickly attracting most of the North Korean populace , particularly the malnourished , poor , and deprived segments of society .
Introduction North Korea’s hereditary rulers have been on “death watch” for decades, with many pundits regularly predicting the demise of the “Kim Family Regime.” Recent collapse scenarios are based on two potentially inter-related events: first, the sudden death of Kim Jong-eun, the 32-year-old Supreme Leader (so far in reasonably good health but without a male heir) and second, the emergence of alternative power centers either within the secretive Kim family clan itself or among key security organiza- tions. In turn, these power elites ultimately clash and break up the brittle, centralized regime. Anticipating a new territorial partition driven by internal groups aligning with either China or the South Korean/Western alliance, this “internal collapse” school plays down the hoary theme of Korean “reunification.” Instead, the camp predicts the formal demarcation line between North and South Korea may ultimately be pushed north of the Demilitarized Zone where it has existed since 1953. Korean Unification unification would likely relieve China from supplying the bulk of foreign aid to North Korea since the breakdown in Six-Party Talks in 2009. China might also be tempted to reinvigorate those talks, pursuing both denuclearization and unification, to burnish its status as a senior statesman above regional pow- er-brokering and to draw attention away from its actions in the South and East China Seas. On the other hand, China has long relied on North Korea as a buffer state to protect its northeastern flank. If the U.S. were to rebalance its military forces elsewhere in East Asia while enabling a unified Korea to deploy t H]\[\X›Z\[HY[H\[H \Z[[Y[]YH\XHY[BHPQ K[H[HY]]\ٙ[]H[ۜ˜[ۛH\XH\H[X[Y[H\\ۈ[[K[HX^H]HۘYY]]\]\X]HHܝܙX[\ۈHXH[YHܛH[HXB\HوH[H[Z[H[\K\H[\Hݙ\\8'[HX[\HH[ۚ^\˸'H[\ܙ[HX^H]H[[]Y]][ۘ[X\]H\\H[ܙBX[YXXHYܙX[[YX][ۈ\XܚYXY[ܙ\KB[H\\[ ۙ\ܙXHH[[HKˈ[\[X[Y\\Y\˂][YX][ۈًK[܈HۙY]YYܙX[[B\Y[H\X\[\[ۈوܙX[YY\܈[وB\^HYX\ˈ]\XY\YYHܝ[]ܙX[[YY [\H\ܝوX[SX\]H[[XY\]H[[Z][[[ۙX[[[H ]][YKܝܙX[XY\[HۙZ[[]ܙX[\HXۛZX[[ۜYZ[ܝܙXHX\\[Bܝ[HY[[XZ[[SܝܙX[[][ۜˈBY[[HYKZ[X\Y[[ۜXX[H\Z][HۜY\XH\ܙ][ۈ[›]X\\H\HYZ[]ZY܋[H[[ŒKH][Hܝ]HYܙYY\HBZH]ٙH[[ۜZHY]\\\]HK˂]Y\[ۈو][YX][ۈ[\[[H[YB[ZXY]PQ[X[ۈ[]ܙXH[[YܝوHܙX[[K\HHX\\ق Mˈ[H[^Z[]HXHHX\\[][܂H[KZ[H][[ۜ\H[YX]H[]\[ܝܙKB܈HXY][Y[و][YX][ۋH]HYܙYY[X\ۜܘ[\[HY\[[HX[][ۜوB]\H\H[[ۈ[[Y[[H] ۘ\وBۙ\Y\[ܝܙX[[K[K\YܙK\X\˜ۙY\][ۈ[Hܝ ܛ][H܈HHܛHقH[[X[X]H]\YH][[\^\ۂY\][ۋH][HܝYܙYY[BܝܙXK][YX][ۈ[]\X[ۋ[ܝ[][K\H[[XZ[\\][ۘ[[[HBۙ\ܞHوܙZYۈ[Y[\ۈHܙX[[[[K]˜ۘܙ]HXY][Y[]HY[XܙY]H][][H[Y\[HوH]XZ܈\][HۈBܙX[[[[KۙH]\\]\\و[Y[H܂[H[H]ܙX[\\[X[K]\[HY\HܝܙX[\O[HY[\[Z[[HۙXYX]ܙX[[YX][ۋ[[ݚ[ܝܙX[XX\X\ۜHHܙX[[[[H\H\[و[YX][ۈ[[[Z[]HHXZ܂X][\[[HKˋT]ܙXKR\[Z[]\B[X[KXZ[[H[X[H[ [\[^H[\BX\و[\[Y[HHKˈ[][Y\ˈ[Y][ۋH[Y[]\[^H[[’[H X\HܝܙXK[HY[\\XH[KB[HHݚ[\X\]ܙ\[Y[H[Y[]\[^KYH JH]Y\XYXۛZXZ[[H[B\XK H]ݙ\Y[[\\[XZ[Z[[HX\]HY\[^][HY[۸&\XZ[\[\\\[X\\X\ܝH\XK[ HH\H\وܝܙX[ٙXX[[YYY\][\\H[\H[][\HP[\Hݙ\Y[[\[K]ܙXK\[Z[X[X[[\][ۘ[ZY \Z[HXZH[Yš[][\H][\[H[H]\\وH[K]ZXH]X[[وHܝܙX[[XK\XKB\HHX[\\Y ܋[\]YYY[وY]K