The U.S. and South Korean governments should evacuate all the troops they’ve got patrolling the southern side of the DMZ – not as an admission of weakness, but as a show of strength. In essence, we’d be telling the North (and the whole world): We don’t even need to guard this border! You want to smuggle some spies south? Go ahead. We won’t even try to stop you. We don’t care. Because you know and we know that if war comes, there’s no way you can win and no way your dysfunctional, exhausted regime can survive. Spies won’t help. And it’s likely half of them will decide they don’t even want to go home.
How would Kim Jong Il react?
Invade – no, out of the question. Suicide.
Keep things as they are – which would leave thousands of North Korean soldiers patrolling their side and looking south at . . . nothing and nobody. What starts going through their minds then? “Hey, what are we doing here?”
Evacuate troops from the north side of the DMZ. Saves money. And then, after a few years without active border defenses on either side, somebody will say, hey, why do we need all those walls and fences and minefields? Let’s get rid of them. And after that, civilians might start traveling back and forth across the border, in both directions, out of curiosity or to visit long separated relatives – illegally, but the governments might decide to turn a blind eye. And after that . . .
If Kim has even a shred of sanity (who knows if he does?), he should be able to see that his regime is on its last legs. What he should want, in the future, would be a peacefully unified Korea where his Communist Party is one of the parties in government, even if it doesn’t run the whole show. Kim could still be a major political player then – a smaller fish than he is now, but still a big fish, in a bigger pond. And that is a result that SK and the US should be willing to accept. Anything that brings that day closer is worth doing.