Thursday, January 06, 2005

Partition North Korea

National Review Online notes an interesting proposal for solving the North Korea problem (sorry, the link to the specific post did not work):

I guarantee that the most provocative piece of opinion journalism to appear anywhere in America today will be "An Immodest Proposal," by Bruce Gilley, in the Wall Street Journal. (Available online only to subscribers.) He writes:

"Here is an immodest proposal that could reduce global tensions, bring justice to millions, and cement China's emergence as a great power: Beijing should invade North Korea on humanitarian grounds and establish a China-backed transitional regime there. The U.S. and its allies in Asia should provide diplomatic and logistical support to the operation, while the U.N. should provide its legal blessing."

I'm not sure whether this idea is absolutely crazy or brilliantly inspired; I am certain it's fascinating, and Gilley's op-ed is well worth reading in its entirety.

I go for crazy--do we really want China on South Korea's border and closer to Japan? And does anybody think there would really be a "transitional" regime there if China takes over? But it has a glimmer of sense in that China has to be a part of this since they will never accept a US-aligned Korea on their border.

So if a South Korea takeover is unacceptable to China and a Chinese takeover is unacceptable to us, does North Korea get to teeter on in its brutal rule and play with nukes? Heck no.

In the past I've speculated that we and the Chinese could split North Korea. I still think it could work. We could intervene when North Korea collapses (or push them over the edge by invading, I suppose. But I'd rather wait them out since most North Korean forces are in the south so we and the ROK would suffer the most) and establish a pro-South Korean 'Middle Korea' regime from the DMZ up to a line north of the rail link between Pyongyang and Wonson. US combat forces would not enter this area and South Korea would not deploy combat aircraft or surface-to-surface missiles in this area. Ground units would be limited as well, with relatively few tanks allowed. Perhaps Japanese military police and engineer units could contribute, although Korean sensitivities would probably preclude this. But it would be nice to get Japan involved.

China would establish a regime from their border south to the rump Middle Korea. Let's call it Hungnam Korea to avoid seeming like the successor regime to the Pillsbury Nuke Boy's nutjob state. China would likewise not deploy combat aircraft or surface-to-surface missiles with limits on tanks and army units in place.

If we must, to get the UN's blessing (this is one icky place I'd like their blessing and since we have it already from the first Korean War, we could probably get something here as a continuation), we could create a small fourth Korea--Chongjin Korea--in the northeast corner adjacent to Russia.

All involved would sincerely commit themselves to preparing their corner of Korea for eventual reunification although the hard work needed would lead everyone to recognize that their guidance would be needed for many decades to bring all the Koreas up to near-South Korean standards before doing so.

Immigration would be limited between regions although travel would be possible as between any countries. This would keep South Korea from being overrun with poor northern Koreans seeking to escape poverty. Northern Koreans in China could be nudged back south. And all could happily have buffer zones for a nice secure feeling.

And all, of course, could breathe easier with a nuclear North Korea disarmed and hopefully keeping nuclear proliferation in the region in check.

Some are pretty eager to divide Iraq when it is clearly against our interests. What would they think of a further partition of the Korean peninsula?