Saturday, January 19, 2013

China could try to block eventual Korean unification, report says


I forwarded the actual report and an article previously on this subject.  
Outside analysts see no clear sign of instability in North Korea, under third-generation leader Kim Jong Eun. But the report lays out how China might respond if North Korea is teetering or collapsing. China could send its own troops into North Korea to prevent a mass exodus of refugees, the report says, citing conversations between Chinese officials and Senate staff members. China might also try to use a protracted U.N. process to determine which nation — China or South Korea — has legitimate authority over the North.
“Anybody who is a serious analyst can’t discount this as a plausible scenario,” said Victor Cha, the Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, referring to the general argument of the report.
As a prudent planner (vice a serious analyst) I would not discount this of course but I think it is very unlikely that China is going to try to block Korean unification.  While I do believe that China will exploit the UN in order to achieve its interests China has no legitimate authority over the South (one of the reasons why it is imperative that the UN Command and the UNSC Resolutions 83, 84, and 85 remain in effect.  China blocking unification is a scenario that might appeal to western analysts but we should be careful of either mirror imaging or view the problem through western lens.  Why would China want to annex north Korea?  Why would it add 23 million poverty stricken people to the hundreds of millions of poverty stricken Chinese that it cannot take care of.  Why not leave that to the ROK?  North Korea is not Tibet or Taiwan.  Sure some say that north Korea is a buffer state but what does China need a buffer state for?  Because it does not want US military forces on is border?  I think there are other ways for the Chinese to do that without having to absorb all the problems that will go with annexing north Korea.  I think China will definitely intervene when the regime collapses.  It will reach deep into north Korea and the ROK-US Alliance will be faced with having to deal with not only the resistance from the remnants of a north Korean military but also with the presence of Chinese forces (and the Chinese will very likely face just as strong resistance from north Koreans because they have been taught to fear and hate any foreign presence).  I think the Chinese will gladly allow the ROK to unify the peninsula as long as a unified Korea makes on concession  - when unification occurs US forces leave the peninsula.  That is its long term objective (its second objective being to maintain access to north Korean natural resources and ensure that the unified Korea honors the 50 and 100 years leases it has made with north Koreans).  The Chinese will achieve far greater strategic benefits by allowing and even supporting unification than it will by being a foreign occupation force trying to pacify and annexed north Korea.  We need to think through that Chinese strategy (and of course we also must be cognizant of separate deals that the ROK might make without US input e.g., withdrawal of US forces).

But we need to see how the first summit meeting between President Obama and President-elect Park goes.  Will they reaffirm the 2009 Joint Vision statement which calls for the peaceful unification of Korea?  I certainly hope so because that is the only end state that has a chance of bringing relative stability to Northeast Asia.  We will see if policy makers and strategists will then heed the strategic guidance from both President's because as evidenced by the strategies and policies put forth in the past 3 years they have not (e.g., neither the January 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance nor the statements of the June 2012 2+2 talks made a single mention of unification as the long term strategic end state).
V/R
Dave

China could try to block eventual Korean unification, report says

By Chico Harlan, Published: January 18


TOKYO — A recent report by Senate Republican staff members warns that China, because of its deepening economic ties with North Korea as well as its ancient claims on Korean land, could attempt to “manage, and conceivably block,” an eventual unification between the two Koreas, if ever the Kim family falls from power in Pyongyang.

The report was released last month with little fanfare, but North Korea watchers say it gives voice to an increasingly popular but still-sensitive sentiment: that China will ultimately try to prevent the South from absorbing the North, the long-assumed post-collapse scenario.

Such a situation is well down the road, experts say, but it resonates at a time when China is playing an aggressive role elsewhere in the region, staking claim to much of the South China Sea and to islands administered by Japan.

China might act with similar aggression in North Korea, the report argues, to “safeguard its own commercial assets, and to assert its right to preserve the northern part of the peninsula within China’s sphere of influence.”

The report was written primarily by Keith Luse, an East Asia specialist who worked as an aide for the recently retired Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), who had been a member of the Foreign Relations Committee with a long-standing interest in North Korea. The minority staff report, Luse said in an e-mail, was written to inform committee members — including Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), nominated by President Obama as the next secretary of state — “to not expect an East-West Germany repeat situation” regarding unification between the Koreas.

A Kerry spokesman said neither Kerry nor his staff would comment on the report, adding that the senator has declined all interviews since his nomination.

The tight connection between China and North Korea represents a major policy challengefor the Obama administration and for the incoming government in South Korea. Conceivably, Washington and Seoul could each try to re-engage with Pyongyang, but neither finds that palatable. Washington failed to influence North Korea’s behavior during previous periods of one-on-one and multinational talks. Meantime, South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye, a conservative, says she won’t reinstate major projects with the North unless the family-run police state dismantles its nuclear weapons. The North says it never will.

Outside analysts see no clear sign of instability in North Korea, under third-generation leader Kim Jong Eun. But the report lays out how China might respond if North Korea is teetering or collapsing. China could send its own troops into North Korea to prevent a mass exodus of refugees, the report says, citing conversations between Chinese officials and Senate staff members. China might also try to use a protracted U.N. process to determine which nation — China or South Korea — has legitimate authority over the North.

“Anybody who is a serious analyst can’t discount this as a plausible scenario,” said Victor Cha, the Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, referring to the general argument of the report.
(Continued at the link below)

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