A great power solution for the Korean Peninsula
The USS Carl Vinson Task Force is currently steaming toward the Korean Peninsula. President Xi Jinping of China was recently hosted at Mar-a-Lago by President Trump, and one of the items discussed almost for sure was the recent action by North Korea concerning its development of nuclear capable intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
The national security adviser to President Trump, H.R. McMaster, recently mentioned a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. Let's take that one step farther and postulate a unified Korea, occupying the whole of the Korean Peninsula, proclaiming its neutrality and accepting guarantees of its neutrality from both the USA and China.
There is a precedent for this kind of arrangement. During the Cold War, Finland was neutral, essentially by agreement of the USA and the Soviet Union. However, the Korean neutrality could be more like Switzerland than Finland. South Korea is much more advanced than North Korea, so the government of the unified Korea would remain in Seoul. The South Koreans already have governments in exile for the provinces of North Korea. A unified and neutral Korea would have a robust military and naval capability to help preserve its neutrality plus the great power guarantees of the USA, which is the strongest naval power in north Asia, and China, which is the strongest land power adjacent to the Korean Peninsula. Perhaps the other two powers that have evidenced interest in Korea, Russia and Japan, would also sign on to the guarantee.
The U.S. forces currently in Korea would be withdrawn, and China would provide a retirement in exile for Kim Jong-un and those from the Pyongyang government who could not live in a unified Korea. Kim could then join his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, in the retirement ditty that appeared many years ago in the (now closed) Far Eastern Economic Review:
... The great leader's been put out to grass.
He's wearing no smiles 'cause he contracted piles.
From the sun shining out of his ass!
The North Korean Army and other military services would be absorbed into the South Korean military. All nuclear weapons would be removed. The Korean constitution would guarantee a representative form of government and prohibit the maintenance or use of nuclear weapons.
This would take a hot spot with tripwire status for both nuclear and conventional war and totally defuse it while providing economic and security benefits to the Korean people as well as China, the USA, Japan, and Russia. Moreover, if this can be successfully done, think about similar status for Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Jeff Scribner is a retired Army officer and president of ASI Enterprises, Inc., an investment bank serving small and medium-sized businesses. He can be reached at email@example.com.