WASHINGTON – The United States should consider negotiating a separation line with China in a collapsed North Korea, a study says, warning of catastrophic consequences if Kim Jong Un’s regime suddenly falls.
The report by Rand Corp., a prominent U.S. research institute, said the crumbling of the totalitarian state could trigger a severe famine as well as a human rights crisis in a country that holds hundreds of thousands of prisoners.
The United States and South Korea would almost certainly intervene, causing alarm in China, which is North Korea’s primary ally, the study said.
China, whose perceived interests include stemming the flow of refugees and preventing U.S. forces from approaching its border, could also send troops into North Korea and risk a confrontation with U.S. or South Korean forces that could quickly escalate, the report said.
“The best way to minimize such accidents is to define a separation line for Chinese forces versus (South Korean) and U.S. forces,” the study said.
The line could be as far north as 50 km into North Korea from the Chinese border or as far south as Pyongyang, it said.
The United States and South Korea should coordinate with China on key priorities such as bringing food into North Korea and securing the country’s nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, the study said.