RAND Scholar Warns South Korea of Chinese Military Threat
It appears more and more people are beginning to believe what I said over two years ago, if South Korea is not ready to occupy a collapsed North Korean state, the Chinese will:
A leading U.S. scholar warns South Korea should prepare for Chinese military intervention and occupation of North Korea or possible attacks against the South’s military in the event of a regime collapse in the North. Dr. Bruce Bennett of the defense-oriented RAND Corporation delivered an address at a seminar in Seoul on Tuesday hosted by the South Korean Army at the War Memorial of Korea, where he forecast Chinese occupation of a portion of North Korea or a threat of invasion to South.
The RAND Corporation is a research and development institution created in 1948 by civilian scientists and researchers who had been commissioned by the U.S. Air Force. Bennett is the North Korea expert there.
He said if China decides to intervene after a collapse, its armies will arrive in Pyongyang before South Korean troops get there, and if a battle breaks out, then Chinese forces would have two to three times the quality advantage. Technical assistance from the United States, based on a continued Korea-U.S. alliance would be crucial, he added. [Chosun Ilbo]
Dr. Bennett’s comments relate back to an article he wrote earlier this year that goes into greater detail of his views on North Korean regime collapse:
If Kim Jong-il suddenly found himself in very desperate, regime-threatening circumstances, might he decide to embrace conflict as a means for gaining the support of rebellious groups in the North? Or if Kim died, could the regime fail and lead to internal chaos into which South Korea and perhaps China would eventually be forced to intervene for humanitarian and security purposes? (…)
South Korea’s inability to carry out offensive operations could allow Kim Jong-il to survive failed attacks on South Korea and then repeat them, at very high cost to South Korea. Or South Korea might be forced to allow anarchy to rule North Korea on its border. In contrast, China is unlikely to accept such anarchy on its border and may feel compelled to intervene; a South with inadequate offensive capabilities might have to accept Chinese control of large parts of North Korea for some time. [Dr. Bruce Bennett - Rand Corp]
Something I didn’t see specified in Dr. Bennett’s article is what he envisions for the US’s role in a collapsed North Korean state. I have long maintained that no US troops should move into North Korea if the regime collapsed, which has put my views at odds with people I respect such as John Bolton and Nicholas Eberstadt.
If US forces moved into North Korea if the regime collapsed, that would be an excuse for the Chinese to move in. The Chinese want to keep the North Korean buffer state along their border and will not willingly go along and give it up if they can help it. That is why I have always believed that if the ROK Army was prepared to execute an immediate occupation of North Korea if the regime collapsed, China would then have a harder time legitimizing any invasion of North Korea with their own forces if the ROK Army is already moving in to stabilize the situation.
US forces moving into North Korea would only legitimize any Chinese action into North Korea plus cause a host of other issues.
Dr. Bennett’s article is more then just about regime collapse and Chinese intervention. Here is a good statement from Dr. Bennett’s article that greatly counters anyone’s argument that North Korea is serious about denuclearizing:
Many experts on North Korea are skeptical that North Korea will ever dismantle its entire nuclear weapon arsenal, because these capabilities have been so critical to North Korea. Consider this: How is it that a nearly bankrupt country of only about 20 million people can stand up to three members of the U.N. Security Council and Japan, four of the wealthiest countries in the world? And in doing so, North Korea often comes out the victor. Would North Korea have such leverage without nuclear weapons? Would the North Korean regime be able to survive without such appearances of empowerment?
I have long maintained that North Korea is not going to denuclearize and I recommend everyone read the Strategic Disengagement Theory to find out why.
Also here is what Dr. Bennett thinks about the current state of the US-ROK alliance:
Today, the United States provides most defense and deterrence capabilities that South Korea cannot. The United States spends about 100 trillion won each year to man, equip, and prepare forces committed to assisting South Korea in a time of war. The United States has been willing to make such a large contribution to South Korean security for decades, effectively subsidizing the South Korean economy. But many in the United States feel that it is now time to let South Korea be more self-reliant. Every effort should be made to achieve this mutual interest in South Korean self-reliance.
In moving toward military self-reliance, South Korea wants to move from a junior partner to a full partner in the alliance relationship. To do so, it should be prepared to accept the responsibilities of full partnership. The United States has appreciated South Korean contributions in East Timor, Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere. Still, South Koreas efforts have not reached those of a full partner like the United Kingdom, which has an active duty military force one-third the size of South Koreas. South Korea needs to examine this issue more closely as it plans its role in the future of the alliance.
As seen recently with all the delay games that are preventing the USFK transformation plan, the current Korean government has no intention of stopping the current subsidizing of the South Korean economy with the US military presence in South Korea.
Make sure to read Dr. Bennett’s entire article because it is a pretty good run down on the current state of affairs on the Korean peninsula. Hopefully Dr. Bennett’s views will further motivate policy makers to continue to take the issue of Chinese intervention in a collapsed North Korean state seriously, which there has been some recent indications policy makers finally are.