Should The People’s Republic of China invade North Korea?
Another day another bit of news of preparations of missile test from North Korea, the land of the world's fourth largest army and as a certain magazine put it "The Explosive Mr Kim" But the serious question is should North Korea's nearest ideological and geographical neighbour the People's Republic of China (if anyone) take a leaf out of the US's book and invade North Korea.
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China has the most interest in
Out of all of the countries involved in the Pacific area it should be the People's Republic of China who should be the most worried about North Korea and interest in seeing a peaceful transition whether through covert or overt military force. Losing it's buffer area in the south due to it being assimilated would be a blow both to the PRC's national and ideological psyche as it would represent yet another "triumph of capitalism" over its communist foes. Also the fall of North Korea would also be a pull on the dragons tail (wake up call) as the PRC would find itself surrounded by more importantly pro American countries in the Far East.
North Korea is a threat to China in the future and a nuisance now.
Currently If North Korea turned on China it's missiles would be able to strike deep within the People's Republic's territory possibly damaging the capital Beijing and hitting coastal ports as well as most of eastern and southern China. This is demonstrated by reports that the DPRK's newest missile variant is reputed to have a range of around 15,000 kilometres enough to put large amounts of people worldwide and across China at risk. Although currently the North Koreans don't have enough fissile nuclear material or the technology to put nuclear warheads on to missiles they represent an irritant to the Chinese and could become worse as their missile technology develops.[[BBC Online News "North Korea's missile programme" http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/2564241.stm Accessed 03.06.09]]
Furthermore for China, North Korea is a nuisance in the present. The amount of illegal immigrants going across the border is in the tens of thousands region something which pushes up crime rates and means that China has to station more troops then it would like on it's border. It also has territorial disputes over islands in the Yalu and Tumen rivers something which hasn't been solved. [[ Accessed 3.06.09 "CIA The World Factbook- Korea, North https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/kn.html ]]
Well, first of all, North Korea has no intention in attacking China in any way. North Korea is dependent on China, as China provides North Korea with food and financial assistance. The point of North Korea trying to obtain the missile technology is simply an act of showing the US that they are capable of attack nearby countries. This is the same logic behind Iran wanting to obtain nuclear weapons. By having missiles, North Korea can at least have a say in the international community. North Korea is very unlikely to become a threat to China, as China is one of NK's closest allies and it is unlikely that NK will succeed in nuclear weapons without the financial backing from China.
Secondly, invasion of North Korea is not the answer to getting rid of a nuisance. To stop illegal immigrants, the police force should be strengthening their border patrol. Territorial disputes should be resolved through the means of negotiation. These two problems should not be solved through an invasion of another sovereignty.
Precedent already there
When the United States of America invaded Iraq in 2003 to enforce non compliance with UN resolutions they set a precedent that pre emptive action could be used against a nation. China would merely be following the United States footsteps in this regard. Also given North Korea's recent belligerent behaviour China would have more grounds for waging war than the US had. [[http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8076451.stm Accessed 01.06.09]]
To invade could trigger an Arms Race: the very thing everyone wants to avoid!
If the People's Republic of China invaded North Korea it could trigger a arms race in the region and a build up of tension, the very thing that security experts are worrying could happen. Already more hawkish elements in Japan are saying that Japan should develop nuclear weapons something that could be exacerbated. If China invaded North Korea alone or in tandem with Communist leaning allies (like Laos or maybe Vietnam) this could worry other countries including the other nearby regional power India which is a country that already has nuclear weapons and has territorial disputes with China.
There is little likelihood of an invasion triggering any more of an arms race than there already is. China’s military is already bigger than North Korea’s and better armed with much better technology. China is similiarly much more capable of supplying its army through sustained conflict. It should be hoped that if such an invasion occurred it would be over quickly as the Iraq war was giving no time for either side to build up their army establishments. Once North Korea has been defeated there would be much less reason for the powers in North East Asia to keep their level of arms supplies at the level they are at now and could even reduce them. Both South Korea and the USA keep large numbers of troops and equipment to prevent a North Korean invasion which would no longer have any chance of occuring.
North Korea seems more concerned about surviving rather than attacking.
All experts agree that North Korea will not do anything that will jeopardise the survival of it's regime. So it is not likely to do something stupid like at the least launching a barrage of cruise missiles and artillery into South Korea or at the worst attack Chinese installations. [[Ralph Cossa "Dealing with North Korea" Global Security Situation Report http://sitrep.globalsecurity.org/articles/090531369-dealing-with-north-korea-by-ra.htm Accessed 2.06.2009]] To attack China would be the ultimate act of national suicide as it would be attacking it's biggest historically ideological, strategic, ally and major trading partner.
North Korea's perception of what is necessary for the survival of its regime may well be very different from ours. North Korea has over the past few weeks been increasingly belligerent, threatening the Japanese "militarist vipers", the US "imperialists" and the South Korean "fascist puppets" with a thousand fold attack. This cant all be dismissed. North Korea's pledged to punish the UN for daring to criticise its long-range missile test in April. "In case the [security council] does not make an immediate apology ... [North Korea] will be compelled to take additional self-defensive measures in order to defend its supreme interests." Since then the North Korean regime made good on its promise and conducted a nuclear test.[[Justin McCurry, 'North Korean tirade against US latest in string of outbursts', The Guardian, 17th June 2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/17/north-korea-outburst-against-us%5D%5D
Is not worth the price
One question that happens to be of crucial importance is what happens if an Invasion of North Korea by China goes wrong. For example the People's Republic of China decided to invade and North Korea decided to launch its nuclear weapons then it could. Furthermore communist countries like Vietnam and Laos might intervene on the side of the DPRK to send a message to the PRC about communist imperialism. Alternatively it could become the PRC's equivalent of the US invasion of Iraq or even more tellingly the equivalent of the USSR's intervention in Afghanistan something that was partially responsible for bringing down the communist regime in Russia.
Unlike the US invasion of Iraq, and that of the USSR into Afghanistan, the people of North Korea would welcome the Chinese. They bring with them not only the same ideological base as the DPRK but an ability to stabalize the economy and way of life for the average North Korean. As far as Laos and Vietnam intervening it is a long shot at best. Neither have any real military infristructure to provide in a conventional conflict. If any support from thoes countries came it would come in the form of insugents.
The US,Russia,South Korea & other interested countries could make a treaty with China that allows NK to be annexed. China is resistant to the idea because they believe their control would be overstretched; however with appropriate treaties, they may be convinced to go ahead.
It is likely to be a bloodless coup d'état against it's generals & a coup de grâce against the regime.
The annex will benefit China, North & South Korea because of free trade & reduced crime on China's border. Investment will flood into North Korea from all over the world.
What do you think?