And it would be horrific.
Recognizing the potential for reduced Chinese assistance, Pyongyang has begun looking for other financial options. Its longtime friend Russia, relishing these days in poking the West, would be a good choice but for its ongoing financial crisis. South Korea, which once provided significant aid to the North for little in return under former President Kim Dae Jung’s “Sunshine Policy,” will not be fooled again without significant concessions. With few options for aid, economic reform will by default become the North’s only real choice.
As a member of the U.S. National Security Council staff in the later 1990s, I worked with colleagues on plans for responding to the potential collapse of the North Korean government. As a self-induced famine ravaged the country, we considered what we might do when the regime finally succumbed to the inevitable consequence of its own insanity. Almost twenty years later, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is still there and those predicting its imminent collapse have continually been proven wrong. But today, the North Korean madness may well be nearing its endgame. I predict it will be gone within a decade.
The continued survival of North Korea’s government is based on its ability to harness absolute terror against its population, its possession of nuclear weapons, and its access to economic resources. Although North Korea requires all three of these to survive, contradictions between what it takes to secure each will make the regime’s demise all but inevitable over time.