Secretary of State Says US Is Not Seeking North Korea Regime Collapse

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had some interesting things to say about North Korea:

Rex Tillerson

The United States does not seek a regime change in North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday, as tensions renewed over the country’s nuclear and missile programs.

North Korea conducted its second test of an intercontinental ballistic missile last week, fueling concerns that the communist nation may be close to delivering a nuclear weapon to the U.S. mainland.

Pyongyang said the test was aimed at giving a “stern” warning to the U.S., which is bent on employing sanctions and pressure on North Korea and justifies the regime’s will to develop nuclear weapons with threats of war.

“We do not seek a regime change. We do not seek the collapse of the regime,” Tillerson said in a surprise appearance at a State Department press briefing. “We do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula. We do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th parallel.”  (…..)

He noted, however, that the U.S. does not blame China for the North Korean nuclear conundrum and Pyongyang “does not define” Washington’s relationship with Beijing.  (….)

“Given the history of enmity and mistrust, this is no doubt a hard message for the North to accept at face value. But I believe it is sincere and worth the North exploring.”  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

Can A “Grand Bargain” With China End North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Program?

I agree with the concept that a “grand bargain” with China is the only way to end the Kim regime’s nuclear weapons program, but I don’t think what the professor is recommending that the US offers in return would cause the Chinese to turn on the Kim regime:

north korea nuke

The United States should seek a grand bargain with China that commits Beijing to use its leverage over North Korea to end its nuclear program in exchange for American concessions like the scrapping of a decision to deploy the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea, a U.S. expert said Wednesday.

Amitai Etzioni, a George Washington University professor, made the point in an article in the National Interest, stressing that the “greatest threat” to U.S. security that the new American president will have to confront is North Korea.

The professor said that efforts to simply “urge” or “shame” China into acting won’t work.

“The costs to China if it were to move to rein in North Korea are considerable. China views living with a Communist-ruled nuclear-armed state on its border as preferable to the chaos of its collapse,” he said.

Instead, China should be offered a deal based on “differential salience,” which means that each side should get what’s important to its national interests from the other side by giving up what’s less important.

“China might well have a high interest in gaining assurances that if the North Korean regime collapses and the two Koreas are unified, the United States will not move its troops to the border with China,” the professor said. “This is a no- or low-cost proposition for the United States, because once the North Korean nuke program folds or the regime collapses, the United States should be quite content not to move its troops north.”

He also said that the U.S. could offer not to deploy THAAD because once the North’s s nuclear missile program is no longer an acute threat, the United States should be quite willing not to place THAAD in South Korea.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but for the Chinese to turn on the Kim regime I think they would want something extremely significant in return that meets their security interests.  North Korea is a buffer state for them that can also be counted on as a third actor if conflict with Taiwan for example was to occur to tie up US forces.  This is a huge strategic benefit from the Chinese perspective.  That is why I think the complete removal of USFK from the peninsula is the only thing that would get the Chinese attention.

From the Chinese perspective if the Kim regime is removed and the Koreas are united what other reason would the US have to keep troops in Korea other than to threaten China?  I don’t think the Chinese would even go for this proposal and would push for more US concessions in regards to Taiwan to really strike a deal, but I think any proposal would have to include the removal of US troops from Korea.

Maybe I am wrong, does anyone else have any differing opinions on what it would take to strike a deal with China?

Stephen Haggard Sees Recent Defections As Sign of Possible Regime Collapse

It would be interesting to know if the recent defection of a North Korean diplomat also included the confiscation of regime funds:

Defection by North Korean diplomats who have access to foreign currency holdings would make it harder for North Korea to bring in money from abroad which can eventually hasten the communist regime’s collapse in the event of a financial crisis, a renowned U.S. scholar said Monday.

The analysis by Stephen Haggard, professor at the University of California San Diego, reflects the speculation of growing instability in North Korea, as seen by recent defections of North Korean overseas workers who had played a part in repatriating hard currency to the cash-strapped regime.

Last week, the South Korean government confirmed that a London-based senior North Korean diplomat defected to the South with his family, which can be viewed as another sign of cracks in the North’s ability to keep its key people in check.

Seoul did not confirm whether the diplomat, Thae Yong-ho, brought foreign currency with him, but news reports said his escape may have dealt a blow to North Korea’s overseas earnings because he reportedly may have had knowledge of the foreign exchange operations of the Kim Jong-un regime in Europe.

In April, a group of 13 North Korean employees working at a North Korean state-run restaurant in China defected to South Korea en mass, spawning speculations that the sanctions-squeezed North Korean elite were feeling the pinch of United Nations’ sanctions on the communist country and opting to bolt.

“Historically, I’ve never thought of the collapse of North Korea in terms of political collapse, but I believe in the scenario … with respect to the possibility of financial crisis,” the professor said in a seminar arranged by the East Asia Foundation in Seoul.

North Korea’s thinning foreign currency income, caused by UN-imposed trade bans and the shutdown of its inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex, left the country vulnerable to the possibility of a “sudden” financial crisis that can lead to a subsequent regime collapse, he said.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but as Mr. Haggard points out in the article as long as China continues to not impose UN sanctions on North Korea the Kim regime will likely continue to survive.

Andrei Lankov On Why North Korean and Chinese Relations “Is Business as Usual”

ROK Drop favorite Andrei Lankov has an opinion piece in the Korea Times that explains how China’s supposed harsh line with North Korea was merely a short term fluctuation and things are back to normal between the two countries:

For a brief while, South Korean diplomats were in a rather celebratory mood: it looked like China, for a change, had joined the ROK and the U.S. in their efforts to subject North Korea to the toughest sanctions ever. Indeed, in early March the Chinese representative in the U.N. Security Council voted for Resolution 2270 which introduced such measures, and for a while the united front looked like a reality.

Frankly, for yours truly, it was a surprise: the harsh position Beijing had seemingly committed itself to was unprecedented, and China’s switch happened quite suddenly. However, now it seems that this change was merely a short-term fluctuation.

There are many signs of a warming of relations between China and North Korea. In early June, Ri Su-yong, the former North Korean foreign minister who currently is the Korean Workers’ Party vice-chairman responsible for foreign relations, visited Beijing. It is the first time since 2013 that a North Korean official of such high rank has appeared in the Chinese capital. Among other things, Ri was granted an audience with President Xi Jinping. It lasted merely 20 minutes and therefore was, first and foremost, a formality, but it still had much symbolic meaning. It is equally important that the Chinese media devoted much space to describing the visit.

Simultaneously, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman expressed dissatisfaction with the new U.S. policy initiative ― unilateral sanctions, targeting banks that deal with North Korea. On the other hand, the U.S. authorities subpoenaed Huawei, a massive Chinese telecommunication company, for its alleged deals with North Korea. There is also a growing body of evidence that China is not being as strict with sanctions’ enforcement as many had hoped for.

There is nothing surprising about all this. Like it or not, when it comes to the Korean Peninsula, Chinese interests are seriously different from those of the United States.  [Korea Times]

You can read the rest at the link, but like I have always said China is never going to take a position that would risk the stability of the Kim regime.  As bad as the regime is, to the Chinese government it is better than the alternative of regime collapse and the unification of the peninsula under South Korean rule backed with US troops.

Former USFK Commander Says That US Military Needs to Prepare for North Korean Regime Collapse

I am all for North Korea regime collapse planning, but does that mean that US forces need to be the ones entering North Korea?:

 Instability within North Korea will lead to its collapse “sooner than many of us think,” a former U.S. Forces Korea commander says.

Retired four-star Gen. Walter Sharp was among five panelists Tuesday who opened a three-day symposium, sponsored by the Association of the U.S. Army’s Institute of Land Warfare, on strengthening land forces across the Pacific.

North Korea garnered most of the panel’s attention, driven by the volatile nation’s uptick in missiles launches and its fourth nuclear test earlier this year.

Sharp, who headed USFK in 2008-11, said he recently guaranteed Gen. Vincent Brooks, the newly minted USFK commander, there would be major changes on the peninsula before his tenure ends.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link, but I have longed believed that US soldiers should not step foot into North Korea despite recommendations previously made that 150,000 US troops would be needed to secure North Korea.  Considering the advantages in culture and language the ROK military has why can’t they be the ones to occupy North Korea?  North Koreans are programmed to believe that South Koreans are puppets of the Americans and if US forces are seen with ROK forces in North Korea this will just validate this belief.  Does the US military really want to occupy a country with a bitter population awash in weapons and explosives?  Plus the threat of 150,000 US troops entering North Korea is the reason why China keeps the Kim regime in power in the first place.  What would the US government think if 150,000 Chinese soldiers showed up on our border with Mexico?

I just do not see how 150,000 US soldiers showing up in a collapsed North Korean state benefits the ROK, North Korea and most importantly the United States?  Maybe I am missing something, but can anyone else make an argument why there needs to be a US military occupation of North Korea?

Report Says Kim Regime Could Face Military Backlash

I think the Kim regime is counting on China to bail them out of any serous economic troubles caused by increased sanctions in order to maintain regime stability:

 

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watches an air force flight training session, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported on Feb. 21. (For use in South Korea only. No redistribution) (Yonhap)

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un regime may face resistance from its military should the armed forces grow disgruntled at its bungled economic policy under the communist party-centric politics, a government-commissioned report showed Tuesday.

Written by the Industry-Academy Cooperation Foundation affiliated with the Seoul National University of Education, the report warned the absence of economic progress in the impoverished state could weaken the governing legitimacy of the Workers’ Party.

The report, entitled “A Study on the Party-Military Relations of the Kim Jong-un Regime,” was commissioned by the Unification Ministry.

It underscored the importance of Pyongyang’s economic growth for the autocratic ruler to secure the people’s backing and legitimize his authority.

The relatively smooth transition toward the current Kim regime was a “result of the military’s relative concessions,” the report said, noting that under the young leader the center of power has shifted to the ruling party from the military.

But the military could call for reshaping the political order in its own favor if Kim fails to shore up the country’s debilitated economy and ensure sustainable military expenditures, the report pointed out.

“The stability of the Kim regime and party-military relations hinges on the country’s economic growth and continued military spending,” the report said.   [Yonhap]

You can read the rest at the link.

 

Should Post-Regime Collapse Refugees Be Allowed to Settle In South Korea?

The mass refugee issue is why I believe if the regime was to collapse the DMZ should remain in place to stop a mass population movement to the South.  It would be up to the ROK to quickly move and distribute aid to the North which would help mitigate a mass population movement:

nk defector image

U.S. experts have urged South Korea and the U.S. to jointly devise measures to improve assimilation of North Korean defectors to other countries in the event of a North Korean collapse.

Olivia Enos and Bruce Klingner, researchers at the conservative U.S. think tank the Heritage Foundation, released a report titled “Next Steps for Human Rights in North Korea” on Tuesday.

The report said the U.S. must adopt a multi-pronged strategy that acknowledges the two important stakeholders in the human rights debate: people inside North Korea and defectors outside the country.

It said the U.S. and South Korea should strive to remedy problems before a potential Kim Jong-un regime collapse and the humanitarian crisis that would follow.

The researchers said that if the North were to collapse, as many as three-point-65 million North Koreans could look to resettle in South Korea.

They said that such a large-scale humanitarian crisis would threaten the stability of South Korea, unless a comprehensive assimilation plan was created well in advance.   [KBS World Radio]

Does China Have Plans to Colonize North Korea?

That is what the below article in the Daily Beast is speculating on.  I have said this for a long time that if the Kim regime was to collapse the South Koreans are going to have immediately move to secure North Korea before the Chinese do.  It should also be done without US troops.  US troops moving north just legitimizes Chinese intervention into North Korea.  Once the Chinese are in the ROK government may never get them out:

At the beginning of last week, Seoul launched a new round of China diplomacy to encourage Beijing to play a “constructive role” in denuclearizing North Korea. Optimally this marks a new era of cooperation between Seoul and Beijing, but it could also be part of a process leading to China’s colonization of the North.

The move follows President Park Geun-hye’s controversial trip to the Chinese capital in early September to participate in the military parade marking the 70thanniversary of the end of World War II. Washington, worried that South Korea was making itself a Chinese satellite, had tried to discourage her from attending the event.

Short of extraordinary measures, there is little the U.S. can do about Park’s increasingly visible tilt to China. Her mission is to seek the peaceful reunification of the two Koreas—her so-called Dresden Initiative announced in March of last year—and she has moved to enlist the Chinese by charming them into cooperation, seeking to engage them at every opportunity.

Park’s efforts to woo China look like they are paying off. Seoul, not Pyongyang, is Beijing’s friend these days on the Korean Peninsula. It is telling that Xi Jinping traveled to Seoul in July 2014, the first time a leader of the People’s Republic visited the South before going to the North. And in fact, he has yet to visit Pyongyang, the capital of his country’s only formal military ally, in his position as China’s president.

Despite all the smiles, the fear in Seoul is that China will frustrate Park’s vision of a unified Korean nation by sending its army south and either leaving behind a puppet regime or even colonizing North Korea.  [The Daily Beast]

You can read the rest at the link.

Rand Report Claims 150,000 US Troops Needed In North Korea After Regime Collapse

I have stated repeatedly that after a North Korean regime collapse that the ROK military should be the ones to secure North Korea not the US military.  Documents like this that advocate for 150,000 US troops in North Korea is why the Chinese government keeps the Kim regime in power.  Does anyone think the Chinese want 150,000 US troops that may potentially be there long term on their northeastern border?  What would people in the US think if 150,000 Chinese just parked themselves in Tijuana?

DOD symbol

An additional 150,000 U.S. troops would be necessary to cope with the aftermath in the event of North Korea’s collapse, such as securing the communist nation’s nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, a U.S. think tank said Tuesday.

“North Korea might suddenly collapse — either as a result of war or the failure of its economy and government. After such a collapse, a key U.S. concern would be to find, seize, secure, and remove its WMD, in particular its nuclear weapons,” RAND Corp. said in a report, titled “Building the Army We Will Need.”

“In such an event, the greatest burden would likely fall on U.S. forces to eliminate these weapons … We estimate that a North Korean collapse would require an additional 150,000 U.S. troops over and above the forces already stationed and presumed to be available in the Asia-Pacific region,” it said.  [Yonhap]

You can read the rest at the link.

Ex-CIA Agent Advocates for Collapse of the Kim Regime

It looks like there is another convert to what I have been saying for years that the Kim regime will never denuclearize or seek peaceful reunification with South Korea:

north korea nuke

A former CIA agent said Tokyo, which is expected to pass a controversial security bill on Friday, should build up its military strength in order to play a key role in a North Korea collapse.

Michael Lee, the 81-year-old former director of the CIA’s North Korea section, made the statement in an interview with Sankei Shimbun, the conservative Japanese newspaper that was charged for publishing derogatory remarks about South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

“The strong samurai spirit of Japan is needed,” Lee said on the topic of dealing with North Korea, and added the government in Seoul is not up to the task of reunification.

South Korean outlet Newsis reported Lee, a Korean-American, said Seoul is wrong to seek a win-win strategy in negotiations with North Korea, and added that “now is the time” to take down the Pyongyang regime – citing Kim Jong Un‘s destabilizing politics of fear.

Lee also said South Korea’s “submissive attitude” to Pyongyang was a “complete failure,” and criticized the Park administration for its show of weakness. Lee also said Washington is believed to be changing its North Korea policy and considering a possibility of collapse after Pyongyang refused to give up its nuclear weapons program.

Lee said it is impossible to coexist with the current regime in North Korea and that the only way to liberate North Koreans from their suffering would be the elimination of the Kim regime.  [UPI]

You can read the rest at the link.