China openly discussing collapse of North Korea
China has sent an unmistakable signal that Kim Jong-un had better not rely on the historic alliance between China and North Korea to resist President Trump's demands. In fact, as he dallies with his troop of teen sex slaves, he had better keep in mind that Beijing is wondering what it might be like with the Kim dynasty out of the way.
The Chinese way of delivering such a harsh message is to use a third party – preferably one without a policy role, but who clearly speaks for the ruling elite. Someone, for instance, like the dean of international studies at Beijing University (the Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford of China).
Patrick Baert of AFP writes:
Jia Qingguo, dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University, raised eyebrows earlier in September when he published an article entitled: "Time to prepare for the worst in North Korea".
The paper was published in English in East Asia Forum, a website of the Australian National University, but it is unlikely that he could have released it without the approval of Chinese authorities.
Jia urged Beijing to start discussing contingency plans with the United States and South Korea -- talks that the two nations have sought in the past but China has resisted for fear of upsetting Pyongyang.
"When war becomes a real possibility, China must be prepared. And, with this in mind, China must be more willing to consider talks with concerned countries on contingency plans," Jia wrote.
This comparatively mild language is telling KJU that in a war, China might not be on the North Korean side.
Observers say the public debate might be a tactic to try and coerce Pyongyang into cooling its weapons programme, with its nuclear and missile tests visibly angering Beijing, which has backed tough new United Nations sanctions on the country.
But it may also indicate growing calls to overhaul its relationship with the North, a longterm ally that it defended during the 1950-53 Korean War and has a mutual defence pact with.
Yalu River bridges from China into North Korea at Dandong, Liaoning Province.
As most readers know, the Korean War never ended. So an "overhaul" of the relationship could only mean weakening or abandoning the alliance and allowing the war to be fought to completion – without Beijing backing Pyongyang in the fighting. Even raising this possibility, indirectly and via a scholarly journal published in English, is calculated to let Kim know he could be on his own.
This could indicate a shift in the tectonic plates of China's geostrategy:
But there are also signs of a genuine shift in perceptions over how China should handle North Korea.
David Kelly, director of research at Beijing-based consultancy China Policy, said the thinking among Chinese academics was: "We could do better without them, a unified Korea would be incredibly good for China, the northeast would boom".
China has long supported North Korea because it serves as a buffer from US troops stationed in South Korea, but Barthelemy Courmont, a China specialist at the Institute of Strategic and International Relations in Paris, said Pyongyang's downfall could be good for Beijing, especially economically.
"China now believes that a collapse of North Korea would not necessarily be to its disadvantage," Courmont said.
"If North Korea were to fall in a peaceful way, China would be best positioned for its reconstruction. China is the only country capable of overseeing the reconstruction of North Korea," he said.
This has to be related to the current "conflict" between SecState Tillerson and President Trump that has progs reveling in what they see as amateur hour. The New York Times:
President Trump undercut his own secretary of state on Sunday, calling his effort to open lines of communication with North Korea a waste of time, and seeming to rule out a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear-edged confrontation with Pyongyang.
A day after Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said he was reaching out to Pyongyang in hopes of starting a new dialogue, Mr. Trump belittled the idea and left the impression that he was focused mainly on military options. Mr. Trump was privately described by advisers as furious at Mr. Tillerson for contradicting the president's public position that now is not the time for talks.
This sounds more like good cop/bad cop than outright conflict. As with President Reagan, Trump is regarded as a bit of a madman, who might just start a nuclear war. Even Kim Jong-un understands that North Korea cannot win such a conflict. But now, the old passivity and delay that characterized American policy toward North Korea for the past three decades is over.
If (and it is a big if) China switches over to a policy of Korean reunification and dumps the embarrassment in Pyongyang, it would be an achievement of President Trump that echoes Nixon opening relations with China and Reagan wining the Cold War.