If the U.S. or China, were to exercise military options in North Korea, it would affect all Koreans on the peninsula. The only real difference is the options available to a North or South Korean. The North Koreans have fewer options and already live in dire circumstances. Their options include staying put (hiding, fighting) or flooding into China and South Korea (running). The prosperous South, however, has nowhere to run. Their only real option is to strengthen the DMZ and keep their forces on high alert. China is currently bracing for a possible human tsunami, and have recently strengthened capabilities at their border with North Korea. The U.S. and Japan are looking at measures to evacuate their citizens, while military assets are being moved into theater (THAAD, CSGs, strategic bombers) etc. As you can imagine, pieces are currently being moved around in the region.
The real question is, will China and the U.S. work together to find a resolution? If either party ignores the concerns of the other, and takes unilateral action, a chance of an even worse conflict could arise. Therefore, a regional coalition of the willing is paramount in tackling the belligerent regime in Pyongyang.
The problem is, the North Korean problem is metastasizing. A decade of trade sanctions did limit its growth, yet, only up until very recently did China cease importing North Korean coal. China has started to shift away from being the enabling neighbor it has been for decades. China may soon cease oil exports as well. I ask the question. Has North Korea finally run out of friends? It has no future in its current state. Will it give in peacefully, or will it continue to provocatively wave its nuclear wand in the region ? I guess we can not know until we are at the precipice of war.
If North Korea were to play its military hand first, it would suffer an enormous response, which would undoubtedly usher China and America into its borders. Political capital would have been completely spent. The North Korean regime would be ticketed for destruction. Missiles would rain down on military installations, troops would be flooding in from China. The South would battle to maintain its border. Seoul could be on fire, and Japan would find out how credible the nuclear threat really was (hope your AEGIS destroyers work). Or, the North continues to saber rattle, and the stalemate continues until the North waves the white flag or the U.S loses patience and goes in alone or with allies and friends in the region.
If China has actually ceased its tacit support of the regime, and is ready to uninstall Kim Jong-Un, this may be enough for North Korea to fold under pressure.
Either way, stay tuned, as the North Korean problem isn’t going anywhere.
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