What if China annexed N Korea?

Give me my hypothetical: let’s suppose the US and/or NATO mount up and start riding toward N Korea, hunting Kim and seeking to effect a regime change. It’s happened in other parts of the world.

If they allow The West, or even just the USA, to go all Iraq on the area they would have to choose between siding with N Korea, which would be a losing, or at least unacceptably costly, battle and very bad for business; or doing nothing for its ally, in which case China looks weak.

Maybe I overestimate China’s capabilities, but it seems like they’d have the best chance of anyone of quickly and cleanly “removing” Kim and friends before things got too heated. Although a bit of a shady move, I think the rest of the world would recognize a danger had been mitigated, and would not fault China as long as some level of humanity were restored to the area. Further, it would be an opportunity for communism to persist and realize some measure of existential victory. Given the choices, this seems like a superpower-worthy move on China’s part.

School me?

I say let 'em. If anything is likely to slow down China’s rise to economic supremacy, it’ll be pouring billions into trying to salvage that mess.

If China attempted to annex North Korea, Kim would probably start a nuclear war with China. So I can’t see how anyone ends up ahead in such a scenario.

Or, it’s a tremendous pool of cheap labor, even by China’s standards.

Could China pre-emptively and without nuclear weapons forestall a nuclear attack on themselves? Could conventional strikes against the launching and assembly sites succeed, or has NK hardened and/or hidden those sites sufficiently that MAD is inescapable?

(Okay, not MAD, but MAH…mutually assured harm, and rather great harm at that.)

They already have a tremendous pool of cheap labor, they really don’t need another. Twenty-five million half-starved North Koreans are nothing but a massive economic burden.

What **Ravenman **said. The nuke arsenal is to defend against *any *country trying to conquer and overthrow Kim. That includes China. North Korea would nuke China just as much as it would anyone else, if there were truly nothing left to lose - a Hitler in his bunker, surrounded by Soviets situation.

Major fail here on understanding NK as a client state.

There’s another issue - many South Koreans would fiercely oppose such a move. Many would consider North Korea part of a Korean peninsula to be eventually unified under a united Korea. China taking North Korea would be annexing part of “future Korea.”

I’m not sure if anyone knows the precise state of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Are they held in a bunker somewhere until Kim orders them deployed? Are any deployed today? How much do they move around? How many may be decoys? Are they hiding anything in such a clever way that their adversaries haven’t figured out yet? I have no idea to the answer of any of these questions.

But to be successful, China would have to know the answer to all of them at a precise moment in time to avoid the worst-case scenario. We can say with high confidence that nobody on this message board could possibly know what Chinese intelligence agencies actually know about North Korea’s nuclear posture.

But given the difficulty of the general proposition, it seems very difficult to believe that China would have such precise intelligence, and be able to act overwhelmingly on it in a very small period of time, to completely neutralize the North Korean nuclear arsenal using China’s conventional capabilities.

China isn’t interested in taking in a bunch of Koreans. They’d take the land and it’s resources at the drop of a hat, but if it was that easy they would have done it already. If it becomes the only practical solution to the problem they’ll probably take it over and run it like a satellite state. I’m sure they have plans to make an offer to the NK military that can’t be refused. For China, NK is a buffer between them and SK, they want things to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Outright annexation is unlikely. It would create unnecessary diplomatic problems for China. China would be more likely to back a coup that would oust the Kim regime and replace it with a military regime that’s nominally independent but is a Chinese satellite (sort of like one of the old Warsaw Pact regimes). I would be very surprised if China hasn’t already planned out this contingency and has some North Korean generals secretly on its payroll.

I agree with this … there is a certain logic to having China roll in and fix all the problems in North Korea, but mainly because China won’t let anyone else do the job … the problem is when would China pull back out, or would they use the United States’ example of keeping the troops in long after the problems are settled (c.f. Germany) …

Yeah this seems extremely likely to me. In the event of the North Korean regime tottering I am absolutely sure they have a plan to make sure they don’t have a pro-US, democratic, unified Korea on their doorstep. And I am sure there is a military component to that plan.

One the many ways the current crisis could get very scary very quickly if it moves beyond nasty words and gestures.

Well … maybe the residents of Seoul, if everyone just ignores them.

I have a hard time imagining that South Korea really wants to be burdened with caring for North Korea. If they were smart, they’d sever all ties, change their name, block North Korea’s calls, and cross the street when they see them walking towards them, etc. Reunification would be a mess for South Korea.

He might also threaten to nuke Seoul if the US or SK doesn’t help him. The guy’s crazy.


China would only “take over” if Kim became a direct threat to them, and they would do so by replacing him with a more reliable client, not by annexation.

In that event, I’d predict a purge of the entire Kim family by a Chinese-supported military coup, led by a Chinese-groomed General.

FTR, I don’t think any of the players want to annex the DPRK. It would take a lot of time and $$ to de/reprogram 3 to 4 generations of N Koreans. They’d have to feed them too. It’s role as a buffer between China and Russia and Korea, Japan, and NATO seems to be useful.

I think that this is actually a very real possibility. “If I’m going down, I’m going to punish everyone” seems like a position Kim might take.