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Managing the Challenges of North Korean Collapse
- Jennifer Lind
- Peter M. Beck
Kim Jong-il’s regime will not necessarily go the way of dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, but there are many signs that the regime is entering a difficult stage in which its future may be in doubt. North Korea’s neighbors, and the international community more broadly, need a clear understanding of the regional instability that could arise upon the collapse of the North Korean government, the requirements necessary to mitigate this instability, and the potential escalatory risks associated with such a crisis. Lind discusses the various problems potentially associated with government collapse in North Korea: “loose nukes,” a humanitarian disaster, a regional refugee crisis, and civil war. She outlines the various military missions that regional actors may want to perform in order to mitigate this instability, and the rough military requirements of those missions.
Lind argues that –even with highly optimistic assumptions about how collapse might occur– stabilizing North Korea could require approximately 260,000 to 400,000 troops. This crisis, and attempts to stabilize North Korea, also run substantial risks of escalation between the United States, ROK, and China. Because of the size and complexity of these missions, and because of the perils associated with mismanaging them, advance and combined planning is essential. Combined planning should include those actors (e.g., China, South Korea, and the United States) who would otherwise likely take highly destabilizing unilateral action to protect their own interests. This research will be published in the Fall 2011 issue of International Security (co-authored with Bruce Bennett of RAND