North Korea: more sudden deaths, totally coincidental

January 5, 2016
"You are too short! banished!"

“Likes long walks on the beach and unusual executions.”

I mean, look. Two ex-pat North Korean doctors working in the same clinic die of simultaneous heart attacks after a night of drinking. What’s suspicious about that?

The doctors, An Hyong-chan, 56, and Chol Ri-mun, 50, died in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, late on Friday or early on Saturday after suffering heart attacks. That they died at around the same time from the same cause and in the same location is just the beginning of the tale.

The men, who worked at a clinic that also served as their home in the city’s Tuol Kork district, reportedly died after their wives – also doctors – injected them with an unnamed drug to counteract the effects of an evening of heavy drinking.

The women grew concerned after their husbands developed fevers, abnormal heartbeats and weak pulses after the couples returned home from a night out with 10 other North Koreans, during which the two men had drunk “numerous cocktails”, according to the Phnom Penh Post.

The women told local police they had injected their husbands with “a medicine and a serum” to counteract the effects of the alcohol, and that the men died of heart attacks about an hour later, the newspaper said.

Note that the wives informed the embassy first, then –“hours later”– finally told the locals. Time enough for a clean-up crew and to get stories straight?

As The Guardian notes, this is far from the only mysterious death in which North Korea is part of the picture. One of Kim’s close advisers died in a car wreck just a few days ago. And the regime does have a habit of creatively executing those who somehow offend it. (1)

So, it’s possible it happened as described, but I see other, more likely scenarios:

The wives murdered their husbands on their own. Perhaps the men were abusive, or maybe they were cheating on their marriages, or the women wanted their men gone for other personal reasons. The wives call the embassy because that’s what’s expected of Norks overseas. North Korean officials show up, figure out the plot, and cover things up to prevent embarrassment to the regime and will administer “justice” on their own.

The wives were agents of the regime, willing or unwilling, and executed their husbands on State orders. “Why” is anyone’s guess, but Pyongyang has never been shy about having people killed. In this case, the embassy was called once the mission was completed, and they showed up to get all the details straight before the Cambodians can ask awkward questions. The women will be whisked away and never seen again. Case closed, too bad for the honored dead.

Either one is possible, though I think the last is most plausible.

But the truth? I doubt we’ll ever know.

Footnote:
(1) I was so sorry to learn that the story of Kim feeding his uncle alive to starving dogs was a hoax. Dude, I was counting on you!


North Korea: Border Guards raided, purged for murdering Chinese?

August 29, 2015
Hungry?

Hungry?

If you’re Kim Jong Un, the Supreme Leader pudgy, alcoholic, and murderous dictator of North Korea, the world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a nation, the last thing you want to hear is that your soldiers have crossed the border into the territory of your one ally and murdered its citizens.

And when you do hear that, you bring the hammer down. Hard.

Scores of officers and rank-and-file soldiers from North Korea’s border guard unit have been rounded up and are under investigation by a special inspection team of the country’s Workers’ Party, following an incident earlier this year in which two of the guards crossed the border and killed two Chinese, sources inside the country said.

The team stormed the headquarters of the 25th brigade in the neighborhood of Yonbong 2 in Hyesan city of Yanggang province earlier this month, and arrested as many as 40 soldiers on the spot, said Hee-yun Doh, a representative of the Seoul-based Citizens’ Coalition for Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees, citing information from a local North Korean source.

Those arrested included the leader of the third platoon from the fourth company of second battalion and six staff sergeants, he said.

 

The head of the Border Guards was replaced after this incident (no word of him being executed in Kim’s usual creative manner), and three staff sergeants were quietly shot — pour encourager les autres, no doubt, for word inevitably got around. North Korea already had a problem with guards being open to bribery to let Koreans cross the Yalu to escape this hellhole (How bad do things have to be to make China look good? Shudder…); if they’re going around shooting people in China, too, well, that’s a problem of a whole other order of magnitude, as Beijing made very clear to Pyongyang.

But the reason they committed these murders should also worry Kim Jong Un:

It was not clear why the North Koreans crossed into the border area, but it is believed that they were trying to obtain food when they killed the two Chinese, according to reports.

In other words, the food situation in North Korea is so bad, Kim hasn’t enough to adequately feed the guys with guns, who are there to keep the rest of North Korea crushed underfoot.

Not good, from a North Korean dictator’s point of view.

Not that the Border Guards are likely to overthrow the government, but this shows Kim is starting to have to put the squeeze on the elites as there just isn’t enough food to go around. I’m willing to bet government officials allowed to live in Pyongyang get plenty, as well as the commanders of key military units and elite bodies of troops. But, if things get worse and reduced rations move (ahem) up the food chain, you can bet there will be grumbling among senior officers already worried about Kim’s predilection for executing people on a whim.

Hence the need to make an example, now.

Long ago, the Roman emperor Septimius Severus is reported to have told his sons, “Ignore everyone else, but take care of the Army.” He knew where the real power in Rome resided, and on whom the Emperor’s safety depended.

Kim, or at least his close advisers, likely knows that lesson, too, but whether he can do it is another question altogether.


North Korea: At this rate, Kim is going to run out of people to shoot

August 12, 2015
"So many to choose from!"

“So many to choose from! Let’s shoot them all!”

But, really, the man had criticized Kim’s reforestation policy. Some things just cannot be tolerated, you know:

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reportedly ordered the execution of the country’s vice premier earlier this year, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported Wednesday.

Citing unnamed sources, Yonhap reported Choe Yong-gon, 63, was shot dead in May this year after expressing “discomfort” over Kim’s forestation policy.

In a statement carried by the agency, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said: “Choe has not been seen publicly for about … eight months since he was last witnessed in December last year at the ceremony to mark the third anniversary of the death of North’s former leader Kim Jong Il.

“The government is closely watching to see what might have happened to him.”

North Korea is suffering from a massive drought, and Kim evidently ordered tree-planting to prevent soil erosion, but it wasn’t going fast enough to suit him. Big surprise for Leftists: Lysenko not withstanding, biology will not bend to crude human will. I’m guessing the late Vice-Premier made the mistake of pointing to Psycho III Dear Leader II that his plan was a bit… “unrealistic.”

In North Korea, that’s a bad career move.

Meanwhile, I’m worried about Kim. No, really! He’s had people machine gunned, fed to wild dogs, executed by anti-aircraft gunfire, mortared to death… If he’s only having them shot, now, he may be losing his touch.


The real reason North Korea has mandatory voting

July 21, 2015
The only vote that counts.

The only vote that counts.

You might think it’s because the world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a nation thinks this is genuine democracy: after all, even though there’s just one candidate (Party-approved, natch) for each post, you can still vote your disapproval by putting your ballot in another box for “no” votes. But nobody does that, probably because of the obvious wisdom of the Party’s choices, guided as they are by Juche spirit and the wisdom of Kim Jong Un.

You might also be a bit more cynical and think it’s so they can boast a 99.7 percent turnout to prove how enthusiastic the people are about their People’s Democracy life in Hell.

But you’d be wrong. Per the CNN article, here’s the real reason the “mountain bandits” have compulsory voting:

The compulsory universal turnout, analysts and defectors say, serves another important purpose for the government.

The election acts as an unofficial census, allowing the government to discover who has defected or otherwise gone missing. And that spells big trouble, not only for the missing voter, but also for his or her family.

Get it? If you don’t vote, your family probably gets sent to Kim’s gulag.

President Obama, who has himself shown authoritarian tendencies, has expressed interest in mandatory voting.

Let’s not encourage him, okay? (1)

Footnote:
(1) To the humorless Left — I kid! I kid! Maybe.


North Korea: Kim Jong-Un promotes poor fool to admiral

July 12, 2015
"I've got some bad news, boss..."

“Wait. We need another new defense minister??”

Considering the last holder of the office was executed by anti-aircraft gun for the crime of lèse-majesté (1), you have to wonder how thrilled the new guy was to get the big news:

A press release from North Korean state media, announcing a senior-level military meeting, called Pak Yong Sik the country’s defense minister.

This is the first time North Korea has publicly stated that Pak was serving in that role.

Hyon Yong Chol, the country’s last defense minister, was last mentioned by state media on April 29.

Chol was killed by fire from an anti-aircraft gun at a military school in front of hundreds of people in Pyongyang around April 30, the South Korean Intelligence Service (NIS) reportedly told members of its parliament.

The article notes that General Hyon might still be alive, meaning the story of the anti-aircraft gun was just Kim playing with our minds. Honestly, I kind of doubt that.

Regardless, I’d suggest to the new defense minister that he take No Doz before all meetings.

PS: Oh, come on. How many of you wouldn’t read that news and think immediately of Admiral Ozzel?

Footnote:
(1) Hey, the man fell asleep in the presence of his god. Some things cannot be tolerated.


Pudgy, nuclear-armed dictator shoots another official. Because he can.

July 8, 2015
"You are too short! banished!"

“You let my turtles die? You die!”

You think this guy knew the game was up the moment he saw Kim Jong Un’s first frown?

The manager of a terrapin farm who incurred the wrath of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, has been executed.

State-run media released pictures in mid-May of a clearly furious Mr Kim berating officials of the Taedonggang Terrapin Farm after the dictator arrived to provide “field guidance”.

KCNA reported that the farm for breeding terrapins had been set up on the orders of Kim Jong-il, the father of the present ruler of North Korea, but all the baby terrapins in the tanks died.

The officials tried to explain that a lack of electricity meant that water could not be pumped into the tanks, while there were also shortages of feed for the terrapins.

Mr Kim was additionally outraged that part of the farm had not been set aside to “educate employees in the revolutionary history” of Kim Jong-il, KCNA reported.

The dictator dismissed the officials’ explanations, saying that “only sighs of defeatists come from units” that fail to “uphold and glorify the leadership exploits of the great leaders and the party”.

He added that their excuses about problems with water, electrical supplies and equipment were “nonsensical complaints”, the Daily NK web site reported.

Sources in Pyongyang told NK News that the manager of the terrapin farm was shot dead shortly after Mr Kim’s visit.

Pour encourager les autres, dontcha know?

And, please. A lack of electricity to provide fresh water to creatures that live in water, and a lack of feed for them? Did he really expect that to be a sufficient reason to let them die from polluted water and starvation? He was obviously a traitor and a counterrevolutionary South Korean-American Imperialist stooge. It’s a good thing Dear Leader Tiny Psycho III was there to ferret out his anti-terrapin sabotage!

Per the Telegraph article, is it any wonder that North Korean officials are starting to defect in large numbers? I’m only surprised no one’s drawn a pistol and shot this loon in an act of preemptive self-defense.

Via Rick Moran, who goes on to compare this lunatic regime to that in Tehran. The one we’re about to help get nuclear weapons, too.

I’ll be in my bunker in the Sierras.


And… North Korea creatively executes another general

May 13, 2015
"I've got some bad news, boss..."

“The dogs aren’t hungry? OK, get the AA squad!”

I’m beginning to think this is Kim Jong Un’s hobby: some people play Chess or collect stamps, he has generals who annoy him shot:

North Korea has publicly executed the country’s defense minister after the regime accused him of treason, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.

Hyon Yong Chol was killed by firing squad using an anti-aircraft gun at a military school in front of hundreds of people in Pyongyang around April 30, the agency reported, citing a media briefing by the National Intelligence Service at its headquarters in Seoul.

Hyon “was purged for lese majeste” because he was seen “dozing off” during a military event and “did not carry out Kim’s instructions,” the agency said. It wasn’t clear what instructions Hyon failed to carry out.

With “an anti-aircraft gun.” (pause) (imagines) The guy was probably obliterated by the first round.

Like I said, I’m beginning to think this is not just a way for Kim to make sure the army doesn’t even think of trying to overthrow him (1), but that this is his recreation. I mean, why else think of so many bizarre ways to kill someone when a bullet to the head will do, unless you think it’s entertaining? We’ve seen execution by mortar, by flamethrower, and by being thrown to the dogs. Execution by machine gun seems almost pedestrian by comparison, unless one is wasting an ex-girlfriend in the process.

Not that I feel all that sorry for the late General Hyon. Let’s face it, he had prospered under a Stalinist tyranny that has to rank as one of worst in human history. He was, up until the moment of his arrest, one of the elite: he almost certainly enjoyed good food, a nice apartment or even a home, car and driver, and probably some graft privileges. He was an elite in a regime that runs the world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a nation, in which not only are thousands sent to horrid prison camps on the flimsiest of pretexts, but their families, too. Whole generations of people are born in those hellholes knowing nothing but a living Hell. And while I’m not familiar with Minister Hyon’s career, I wouldn’t be surprised he had denounced people a time or two along the way, nor that he dutifully cheered when someone else got the ax.

So, no, I don’t have much sympathy for the capo when the Godfather finally decides to whack him. Risks of the job and all that. But I do hope he had no young family members, who otherwise are likely on their way to the North Korean gulag.

Footnote:
(1) Yet again I have to wonder if some general or generals aren’t —very quietly and very privately— considering taking out Kim before he decides they need to meet the firing squad. With a “Dear Leader” this bloodthirsty, it would seem a necessity of survival.

 


And…. North Korea shoots another general

February 5, 2015
"I've got some bad news, boss..."

“Who said I was wrong?”

“Pour encourager les autres,” (1) I’m sure:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un executed an army general last month in his latest purge of senior officials.

General Pyon In Son, one-time head of operations in the Korean People’s Army, was killed for expressing an opinion that differed to that of to MrKim’s, a South Korean official told reporters in Seoul on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. The official didn’t say what they disagreed on.

Mr Kim still mistrusts the military, the official said, adding that senior officers are growing increasingly uneasy. The “Supreme Leader” also removed Ma Won Chun, a National Defence Commission official overseeing construction design, from office in November for alleged corruption and a failure to follow orders.

Mr Kim has relied on purges to consolidate his grip on power since he took over North Korea, a country with a nuclear arms program and 1.2 million troops in 2011. After killing his uncle and one-time deputy Jang Song-thaek in 2013, he executed about 50 officials last year on charges ranging from graft to watching South Korean soap operas.

“The purge of Pyon sends a message that helps to discipline the military,” said Kim Yong Hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul. “The execution is a symbol that will help tighten loyalty.”

Well, that’s one way to put it, I suppose, though I’m not sure it’s their loyalty that “tightens” at the possible consequences of saying something Psycho III Kim Jong Un doesn’t like.

This kind of capricious tyranny often contains the seeds of the tyrant’s downfall: not only might his subordinates get rid of him to save themselves (as the Romans did with Caligula and Domitian, among others), but no is going to give this guy the bad-but-necessary information every ruler needs in order to make good decisions. Instead it’s “Yes, Dear Leader” and taking notes on his every word, while hoping he doesn’t decide you annoy him. In a regime dependent on one (pudgy, alcoholic) man, that’s a recipe for disaster. And that includes his neighbors, should a nuclear-armed Lil Kim decide that now is a good time to settle the Korean War.

Meanwhile, one has to wonder how many high-ranking generals Kim can kill before one of them decides to shoot first.

Footnote:
(1) Admiral Byng could not be reached for comment.


North Korea: Kim III orders execution by flamethrower

April 10, 2014
"I've got some bad news, boss..."

“Really? Let’s hold a BBQ…”

Sometimes I wonder if Kim Jong Un, a reputed heavy drinker, doesn’t sit around late at night nursing a bottle of scotch and fantasizing about the various outré ways he can whack people who have ticked him off:

A senior North Korean official has been executed with a flamethrower after Kim Jong-un branded him an ‘enemy of the state’, it has been claimed.

O Sang-hon is said to have been brutally killed for his close ties to the communist leader’s uncle Jang Song-taek, who was himself publicly tried and executed in December after being found guilty of corruption and ‘counter revolutionary’ activities.

Mr O is thought to be the latest of 11 senior Workers Party figures to have been executed this year over their links to Mr Jang, with South Korean media reporting that Kim Jong-un has plans to execute or imprison hundreds more of his supporters and extended family members.

Mr O had been Mr Jang’s deputy at North Korea’s ministry of public security, and his execution by flamethrower took place after being found guilty of helping his boss turn the state department into a personal security division and hide corruption, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported.

The ministry of public security has since been closed, with all 11 of the most senior officials said to have been either executed or sent to one of Kim Jong-un’s concentration camps in a second wave of vengeance following conviction of Mr Jang.

I’m not so sure a life sentence in in the North Korean gulag is much better than death, in fact I’m certain it’s in many ways worse, but execution by flamethrower? Mind you, that’s after we’ve had reports of execution by mortar and by being thrown to the dogs.

Use of a flamethrower brings a whole new meaning to “firing squad.”

Take this news with the usual caveats about “if it’s true,” but, regardless of its verity and in spite of its egregiousness, Kim’s savage, quixotic tyranny is a “teachable moment” for advocates for advocates of limited government, because it shows quite clearly the dangers posed when government is not restrained and its powers are not carefully limited. And when the Rule of Man replaces the Rule of Law, no one’s life, rights, or property is safe.

No need for flamethrowers to prove it: just ask the Sacketts of Idaho.

PS: I fully expect Kim to up his game — the next execution just has to be by tac-nuke.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


North Korea: all men must now wear Kim Jong Un’s hairstyle?

March 26, 2014
x

Bah! You call that a “haircut?”

When you’re the boy god-king of the world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a nation, you can get away with weird, petty stuff like this:

If you are a man in North Korea, we sincerely hope you have a round face. It’s the shape that will work with your new haircut.

That new haircut is reportedly called the “Dear Leader Kim Jong Un,” modeled after—you guessed it—North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s impenetrable block of black hair atop his chubby cheeks. The style reportedly became a state-mandated guideline about two weeks ago, though experts familiar with the country have said there’s no evidence a new hairstyle rule has gone into effect.

According to the article, this isn’t something new for North Korea: Kim’s father, the late, demented Kim Jong Il, launched a state campaign against long hair on the grounds that it sucked the nutrients from one’s brain.

Really.

Anyway, a TV campaign was launched and “journalists” would go to people’s homes to confront them about their overly lengthy locks. This being North Korea, I suppose they were lucky not to be shot or fed to the dogs.

Back to Kim III, and regardless of whether this is true, it’s another illustration of why limited, constitutional government is best; when there are no limits to the powers of the rulers, there are also no limits to what they will do the the ruled. North Korea is just the extreme example that clarifies the point.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


North Korea: Kim Jong Un executes uncle’s entire family, including children

January 27, 2014
"I've got some bad news, boss..."

“Wait. We missed a few?”

Sounds like Kim III got drunk again. Having executed his uncle, perhaps by feeding him alive to the dogs, it now appears he’s had almost the entire family wiped out:

North Korea ruler Kim Jong-un has reportedly ordered that all blood relatives of his executed uncle be put to death, continuing an apparent purge of all he sees as threats to his reign.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, citing multiple sources, reported Sunday that “extensive executions” of relatives of Jang Song-thaek had been carried out.

“All relatives of Jang have been put to death, including even children,” one source told Yonhap. Among those reported dead were Jang’s sister Jang Kye-sun, her husband and Pyongyang’s ambassador to Cuba, Jon Yong-jin, and the North Korean ambassador to Malaysia, Jang Yong-chol, a nephew of Jang, as well as his two sons.

In addition, Yonhap reported that the sons, daughters, and grandchildren of Jang’s two brothers were executed as well.

Some were shot in the street if they tried to resist arrest. But, merciful little sociopath that he is, Kim let relatives by marriage go into internal exile in North Korean villages. Given this is the world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a nation, I’m not sure that’s much of a mercy.

I stand by my prediction that Kim’s actions are pretty soon going to convince (1) some senior army officer that Kim should have a fatal “accident” (2), before he turns a drunken eye to said soldier.

Meanwhile, don’t you feel all warm and fuzzy that Kim has nuclear weapons at his disposal?

Please, whoever you are, hurry up with that coup.

Footnotes:
(1) If it hasn’t already. In a totalitarian police state, these things have to be done slowly and carefully.
(2) Such as “Sudden Cranial Lead Poisoning” syndrome.


“We find your lack of sincerity disturbing, comrade”

January 13, 2012

Well, now we know why North Koreans were crying so hysterically at the death of psychotic brandy-swilling midget Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il last month. As I wrote at the time:

Some of it may be genuine fear for the future, and I’m sure some of it is also fear of what happens if they don’t perform on cue.

Turns out I was right:

Following the mourning period for former leader Kim Jong Il, North Korean authorities have begun to punish citizens who did not display enough sadness at his death, The Daily NK reported Wednesday.

The Daily NK, an online newspaper based in South Korea and run by opponents of the North Korean government, said it had learned from a source in North Hamkyung Province that, “The authorities are handing down at least six months in a labor-training camp to anybody who didn’t participate in the organized gatherings during the mourning period, or who did participate but didn’t cry and didn’t seem genuine.”

You also get imprisonment or internal exile for daring to question the dynastic succession that gave the throne of the world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a real nation to Dear Leader’s son, Kim Jong-Un.

And people wonder why so many of us are suspicious of government having too much power.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Four must-reads on North Korea

December 20, 2011

Busy day today, but I wanted to share with you four articles on the world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a nation, aka “North Korea,” and its uncertain future. Each has something worth your attention:

Writing from Tokyo, the New York Times’ Martin Fackler interview Korea “experts” (as if anyone can be a true expert on what goes on in a closed, paranoid land) whose general consensus is that the new dictator, twenty-something Kim Jong-Un, and the factions surrounding him will likely see a period of consolidation and reduced tension with the US, as the country sorts out its leadership and deals with crushing internal problems:

Masao Okonogi, a specialist on North Korea at Keio University in Tokyo, said that during the new leader’s first few years, North Korea would most likely avoid confrontation with the United States and its allies, like South Korea.

That was the route taken by Kim Jong-il after his father’s death, said Mr. Okonogi, and he seemed to hold out an olive branch by observing a 1994 deal negotiated by his father to freeze construction of two reactors suspected of use in North Korea’s covert atomic weapons program. North Korea eventually suspended the deal in 2003, three years before testing its first nuclear weapon.

“Look for Kim Jong-un to make some offer, like to restart the six-party talks,” Mr. Okonogi said, referring to stalled multilateral negotiations on dismantling the North’s nuclear weapons. “He’ll need to reduce tensions with the United States in order to buy time.”

Some analysts said the new leader would probably use this time to try to fulfill his father’s promise to turn North Korea into a “strong and prosperous” country by 2012. To do that, he must revive a moribund economy that ranks near the bottom of the world in many measures, including per capita gross domestic product of $1,800 per year, versus $30,000 in technologically advanced South Korea. The North’s unwillingness to forsake the centrally planned economic system, its severe isolation and its utter reliance on food and fuel handouts from China and international aid groups have perpetuated or deepened the crisis.

That would be wonderful, presuming the North Korean leadership was rational and motivated by national self-interest. But, if US intelligence is right, the new Kim on the block may be even more deranged than his father:

“It’s been only about a year and three months since Kim Jong Eun was officially tapped, so it would be very difficult for him to effectively seize power within the old guard in the party as well as the military,” said Yoo Dong-ryul, a researcher at the Police Science Institute in South Korea. “I think whether Kim Jong Eun succeeds will ultimately depend on the role by Jang Song Thaek.”

The portrait of Kim Jong Eun that emerges in his U.S. profile is that of a young man who, despite years of education in the West, is steeped in his father’s cult of personality and may be even more mercurial and merciless, officials said.

A senior U.S. official said intelligence analysts believe, for instance, that Kim Jung Eun “tortured small animals” when he was a youth. “He has a violent streak and that’s worrisome,” a senior U.S. official said, summing up the U.S. assessments.

Great. Just what we need: a potential serial killer in charge of nuclear weapons.

One of the great questions is what China will do. As revealed in the Wikileaks cables, China regards North Korea as a pain in the rice bowl and rather an embarrassment, particularly for a nation trying to establish itself as as global superpower. (Kind of like a gangster trying to be “respectable” and not wanting to be seen with his crazy friend from the old neighborhood.) There have even been preliminary feelers about the conditions under which China would accept Korean reunification. My own opinion is that China would like to see a stable, less embarrassing North Korea survive, if for nothing else than the prestige hit it would take from an ally falling apart. Failing that, reunification with the South would be acceptable — provided it did not mean American troops on or near the Yalu river border. In that case, China would want to see some sort of disengagement of the currently tight relationship between Washington and Seoul.

But there’s another possibility: a North Korean descent into chaos that leaves outside powers no choice but to intervene. Back at the NYT, Victor Cha wonders if North Korea won’t wind up as China’s newest province:

The allies’ best move, then, is to wait and see what China does. Among China’s core foreign-policy principles is the maintenance of a divided Korean Peninsula, and so Beijing’s statements about preserving continuity of North Korea’s leadership should come as no surprise. Since 2008 it has drawn closer to the regime, publicly defending its leaders and investing heavily in the mineral mines on the Chinese-North Korean border.

But even as Beijing sticks close to its little Communist brother, there are intense debates within its leadership about whether the North is a strategic liability. It was one thing to back a hermetic but stable regime under Kim Jong-il; it will be harder to underwrite an untested leadership. For Xi Jinping, expected to become China’s president over the next year, the first major foreign policy decision will be whether to shed North Korea or effectively adopt it as a province.

In other words, China may feel it has no choice other than to quietly take North Korea over.

Like Mr. Cha, former American Ambassador to the UN John Bolton sees great danger in a North Korea that slips into instability or outright chaos, to the point that US and South Korean forces might themselves have to intervene on a moment’s notice to secure the nukes:

While an authoritarian DPRK state, armed with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, is a threat regionally and globally, a fractured DPRK, leaderless and perhaps descending into civil war, is an even greater threat. The prospect of conflict among various military and other security forces, which like the Kim family also have everything on the line, is real. Control over the weapons of mass destruction and other key assets (missile launch sites and storage facilities, communications facilities, the loyalty of major military formations such as the artillery, and armor massed near the borders) will be essential.

Moreover, North Korea’s civilians are not, despite decades of effort by Pyongyang, totally ignorant about conditions outside the hermetic state. Already desperately impoverished and hungry, they may well decide at the first signs of regime collapse, or even before, that their moment is at hand. Aided by South Korean activists, they could begin moving north toward the Yalu River border with China or south to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which has divided North from South since the 1953 Korean War Armistice Agreement.

South Korean authorities, together with the nearly 30,000 U.S. forces there, have long prepared for the contingency of massive refugee flows toward the DMZ. They also have plans for entering North Korea in force on extremely short notice, to prevent massive instability, to secure the nuclear weapons, and to control the DMZ.

The last thing we need is for the North’s destructive weapons (or other elements of its nuclear program) to be used during internal conflict, or auctioned off to foreign states or terrorists by military factions desperate for hard currency to continue their struggle or flee the country. But while we believe that large stocks of chemical and biological weapons are located near the DMZ, we have very little knowledge of where the nuclear weapons actually are. If South Korean and U.S. forces have to enter the North, time will be short, the dangers high, and the odds long.

Bolton is highly critical of what he sees as almost nonexistent efforts by the Obama administration to get clear information from Beijing and coordinate with them over a possible Korean crisis. If Cha is right and China decides it needs to “put North Korea under new management,” and if those efforts fail and the US and South Korea decide they have to intervene, the potential for an accidental clash that reignites the Korean War gets white-hot.

Which makes me feel so good about having Team Smart Power in charge.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)