North Korea has threatened to retaliate because of the recent attempt by the South to spur a revolution similar to those in Africa and the Middle East. The efforts seek to create anti-North sentiment by dropping leaflets that inform those in the North about the riots in Libya and the recent overthrow of Mubarak’s 30-year old Egyptian regime. The actions of the South are complemented by China’s recent waning of investment into the North.
China and South Korea seem to be waiting in limbo while North Korea contemplates its next move. An already depressed nation, the North has consistently solicited the Chinese for more funds, but has yet to find any substantial suitors willing to invest the amount of funding for which they have asked. This is not surprising when considering the outcome that both China and South Korea would face if the regime of Kim Jong-Il would collapse.
As for China, their biggest worry is the fact that the North has no substantial political movements strong enough to inherit or rebuild its government, which would be, essentially, from the ground up. China sees this as a threat because the instant the North’s regime falls, China would be inundated as well as responsible for the endless flow of refugees that would be coming in through their border. Although it sounds extreme, the magnitude of North Koreans would likely be unprecedented as well as costly. And, most likely, this is what the Chinese are trying to avoid.
China’s strategy is to give the North just enough funding to survive. If in some way they can provide Kim Jong-Il with just enough, then it, in turn, lowers the likelihood that China will have to spend much more money in the future on rehabilitating and housing refugees.
Even though some experts tend to see it a useless effort, it looks as if the strategy of the South is to try to spark an organic overthrow. This would be beneficial for both the South and the United States because it relieves both countries from the responsibility that comes with toppling the North.
Just like China, the borders of the South will be filled with North Koreans seeking refuge in the case of a breakdown of the regime. The cost would be quite similar to the situation that would happen at the Chinese border, but because the South’s government and economy is far from prepared to handle such an influx of people seeking support, the U.S. would most likely be called upon to provide much of the humanitarian effort.
The basic fact of this situation is that if the North’s regime breakdown, there will be a catastrophe. And although the strategy of the two dominant world powers, China and the U.S., appears to be out of self-interest, it is very possible that each of the respective strategies could combine into one perfect storm. If the attempts by the South to feed an uprising became successful when it was combined with China’s strategy to fund the North solely for subsistence, there could be a very good chance that this problem we call North Korea would simply take care of itself.