Chinese Approaches to Contingency Planning in a Collapsed North Korea

Chinese Approaches to Contingency Planning in a Collapsed North Korea by Annie Kowalewski - Georgetown Security Studies Review

Multilateral contingency planning regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) remains largely underdeveloped, but any effort to stabilize the region after a complete collapse of the DPRK will require cooperation between the United States, China, and the Republic of Korea (ROK). This article will consider Chinese approaches to contingency planning and how the United States can cooperate with China in a crisis scenario post-conflict.

China will inevitably be affected by the humanitarian costs of a collapsed DPRK, the security of DPRK’s nuclear material, and any large US-ROK force mobilization on the peninsula. As such, China has increased border patrols and surveillance along the Sino-DPRK border to monitor potential crises and increase its first-response capabilities. One humanitarian concern in Chinese contingency planning documents is mass migration into Chinese territory that may destabilize the Jilin/Liaoning provinces. China would need to manage an influx of refugees with a different ethnicity to that of the Han Chinese, but also integrate thousands of unskilled workers into its economy. Moreover, current estimates suggest that there are nearly 100,000 people currently imprisoned in camps where infectious disease remains rampant The liberation of these camps thus opens the door to massive health concerns. These humanitarian and health challenges threaten to destabilize Chinese domestic stability.

The second focus is securing DPRK’s nuclear weapons and material. Potential crisis scenarios in this field range from ensuring the nuclear material does not leak to accidental launches to transfers of nuclear technology to dangerous groups. Lastly, Chinese documents regularly note the potential for the US-ROK to “take advantage” of a weakened peninsula to change the status quo and encircle China…

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