China to intervene in N. Korea in emergency, Hani Defense 21

Kim Jong-dae, the editor-in-chief of the defense and security monthly D&D Focus (and a former defense advisor to late President Roh Moo-hyun), writes in the Hankyoreh’s Defense 21 that in response to the American development of its OPLAN 5029, predicated on sudden changes in North Korea, China has prepared a similar emergency plan. I’ll briefly summarize Kim’s article below (NOTE: this is NOT a direct translation).

This secret plan is named “the Chick Plan,” meaning that China would protect and manage North Korea like a hen does her eggs. This plan reportedly includes plans to occupy those areas of North Korea north of a line stretching from Nampo in the west to Wonsan in the east, maintain security throughout North Korea and block the flow of refugees into China.

The existence of this plan was learned during the trial of Park Chae-seo, a former South Korean spy recently sentenced to seven years in jail for leaking secret military documents to North Korea. Park said around 2004, during a period of tension between South Korea and the United States over OPLAN 5029, he learned of the plan from a director-level Chinese intelligence official. This was a time when Korea was on-guard regarding Chinese intervention in Korea due to Beijing’s “Northeast Project.” Park said the existence of the plan was reconfirmed by multiple Chinese officials afterwards. According to Kim, this gives Park’s claims substantial credibility.

Assuming Park is telling the truth, this means both China and the United States are preparing to intervene in Korea in the event of an emergency in North Korea, and in a worst case scenario, this could lead to a clash.

According to Park’s lawyers, both the North Korean and Chinese governments prevent Chinese businesses from investing south of the Nampo—Wonsan line. This would suggest that even if China were to intervene in the North to protect Chinese nationals, it would not move south of the Daedong River. This would also suggest that the Nampo—Wonsan line would be the southern boundary of a Chinese occupation zone. If China were to move further south to occupy areas near the South Korean border and areas of South Korean investment, it would cause headaches. Park also said in order to carry out the operation successfully, it has assembled PLA regulars in Shenyang and built operational roads crossing the Yalu and Tumen rivers at the cost of 2.5 trillion won.

Kim writes that while North Korea’s position on China’s plan is unclear, it does appear Pyongyang is getting a clear grasp of what CFC’s OPLAN 5027—04, adopted from 2004, entails. North Korea believes the plan is predicated on an aggressive occupation and Korean reunification, going completely beyond the CFC’s defensive war plans of the past. In August of 2004, the Rodong Shinmun blasted the plan in full detail. Later, when disagreements between the United States and the Roh Moo-hyun administration emerged over Concept Plan 5029, then CFC commander Leon LaPorte expressed extreme displeasure with Seoul, saying Seoul’s opposition to the plan would break the alliance. Startled, Seoul let the plan go through, albeit as a “Concept Plan” rather than an OPLAN.

Watching this, North Korea was gripped by fear that the United States might unilaterally occupy the North regardless of what Seoul thought. Pyongyang might have accepted the Chinese plan as a defensive mechanism to the US plan. The same goes for the Lee Myung-bak administration’s acceptance of OPLAN 5029. OPLAN 5029 and the Chinese plan clash on several points, and bring with them the strong possibility that China and the United States will race each other to North Korea, both sides overlooking Korean sovereignty in the process.

According to Kim, the Lee administration’s attitude has grown doubtful. With Chinese intervention in North Korea a near certainty in the event of instability, Lee directed his people not to talk with the Americans about an OPLAN 5029 predicated on Chinese intervention at last year’s SCM. Thanks to the China factor, the Lee administration, which initially included the need to for stabilization operation plans predicated on instability in the North in its military reform plans, adopted a more passive attitude regarding OPLAN 5029.

Kim says the Lee’s strategies and blueprints are pretty much moot, and that’s he’s got no long-term plans for peace, prosperity or security other than ignoring the North, depending on the United States. And with other countries intervening in North Korean issues, Seoul has turned into a passive actor. Kim concludes by accusing the Lee administration of orchestrating a “lost five years” in which Korea has become a mere spectator, unlike the previous two presidents who presented a vision for Northeast Asia and looked for an independent way of survival.

Marmot’s Note: I find the confirmation of Chinese operational plans to occupy North Korea much more interesting than Kim’s criticism of the Lee administration, mostly because I recall the Roh administration’s grand vision for North Korea and Northeast Asia, and seem to remember they were unmitigated disasters that pissed off everybody except North Korea, which showed its gratitude by conducting a nuclear test in 2006. I’ll take “ignore North Korea and let the chips fall as they may” over that every time.

I must confess, though, the China issue has me a bit torn — as a resident of Korea and somebody who would really like to see a united Korea under the rule of the ROK, it sucks that China’s prepared to come in. As a pragmatist weary of China, however, I can think of worse things than Beijing getting stuck sorting out the mess they helped make in North Korea.

  • yuna

    It’s the direct ramification of the let’s ignore the problem child till he says sorry for what he’s done.. He goes to the class bully. GOD, I hate the turn out of events..

  • Yu Bum Suk

    Wouldn’t the country best able to deal with a North Korean collapse be, um, South Korea?

  • pawikirogii

    sad we’ll have a war.

  • Q

    I assume long-term plan of China is to annex NK like Tibet. 동북공정 (Northeast Project) is not just making Korean history a part of Chinese history. I think it is China’s strategy to legitimatize their future occupation of NK. 응큼한 중국.

  • setnaffa

    not reall news… we’ve known KIS/KJI and their clan to be PRC puppets since late 1950…

  • R. Elgin

    This is why I have advocated South Korea having nuclear weapons all along. The Chinese leadership should have more to fear than North Korea collapsing. Without such weapons, I am afraid that a war would be inevitable.

  • iMe

    i’m surprised you’re surprised, robert. we are talking about china here.

  • iMe

    hey robert,
    why didn’t you tell us you were at the blue house? found out via roboseyo’s blog. come on! give us a recap!

  • hamel

    This Robert doesn’t blog about his real life.

  • pawikirogii

    btw, let’s point out that china’s plan seems to be a response to america’s plan to invade the north. i think it’s time for sk to start thinking about whether having the us on its soil is a good idea.

  • iMe

    i wonder if LMB reads the marmot…

  • milton

    why didn’t you tell us you were at the blue house? found out via roboseyo’s blog. come on! give us a recap!

    That…is…friggin’…awesome. What’s the president like?

  • Granfalloon

    One more reason why Brendon’s recent suggestion of just going to war and getting it over with makes sense.

  • milton

    One more reason why Brendon’s recent suggestion of just going to war and getting it over with makes sense.

    If this story is true, and the US and ROK believe it to be true, then the situation resembles an old fashioned Mexican standoff (like those scenes in gangster movies where everyone has guns pointed at each other). From a game-theoretic perspective, this type of situation is stable, but fragile (i.e. all it takes is one itchy finger or even an unrelated loud sound to start a massive, bloody gun fight). In these types of situations, the two sides face three possible moves: concede, strike first, or maintain the status quo. Conceding is the worst option for the conceder, but has the highest payoff to the concedee. The payoff in the event one party concedes here is knowable. The other situation where the payoff is knowable is “maintain the status quo.” Both sides get a slightly negative payoff, but still prefer that payoff to their own concession.

    The unknowable payoff is the “strike first” option. In the event of a total, complete, swift victory, it could lead to a payoff slightly worse than if the other side conceded outright (because the first striker had to “pay” something in the form of blood and treasure to get the result). It could also lead to a result worse than concession in the event of a total loss. Or it could be somewhere in between. The actual payoff is a probability function that depends on a number of objective factors (military strength, potential economic losses, logistics etc.) and subjective factors (whether one party believes action is feasible and the risk adversity of that party).

    I would guess that the current situation looks something like this:

    Party A (China) prefers these moves in the following order: outright US concession>status quo>strike first>own concession

    Party B (The US/ROK) prefers these moves in the following order: outright Chinese concession>status quo>strike first>own concession

    So, from a purely rational point of view, the equilibrium here will tend to gravitate towards “maintaining the status quo” at all costs, including putting moral considerations aside.

    And so actually, (and I shudder as I write this) Kim Jong-dae’s criticism of President Lee is not without basis. Since the “trigger event” that turns the Mexican standoff into a gunfight is North Korea’s collapse, it makes sense (again, putting moral considerations aside) to do everything possible to maintain prevent the trigger from going off.

    However, if the US has good reason to believe that China prefers concession to responding to a US/ROK first strike, then it makes sense to consider this option.

    Despite the above, for the record, I completely agree with Granfallon and Brendon. If ever there was situation that justified preemptive action, it’s North Korea. The case could be made on humanitarian and human rights-grounds alone.

  • Sperwer

    why didn’t you tell us you were at the blue house? found out via roboseyo’s blog. come on! give us a recap!

    That…is…friggin’…awesome. What’s the president like?

    Very short.

  • Granfalloon

    Good analysis, Milton. This situation is theoretically stable* (hey, countries have kept this up for decades if not centuries), but you are right to point out its fragility. North Korea depends on a certain level of belligerence just to maintain status quo. Imagine the Mexican stand off, but one of the gunmen keeps yelling “Bang!” every few seconds. Myers believes they will eventually cross the line (maybe literally), and the South will respond with teeth. It’s not hard to see all out war quickly escalating from there, so why not cut to the chase now and get things started while there are still variables we can control.

    However, bringing the focus back to China . . . they’ve shown a remarkable apathy to their reputation in the world, so I would not fully discount Chinese intervention. But I think it’s unlikely. Giving the US reason for further entanglement in Asia is simply a bad move for them. Besides, it’s looking as though they’ll have plenty of economic muscle to leverage a unified Korea any which way they want in the decades to come.

    *I’m currently in the middle of Yale’s iTunes U course in game theory. Have you tried it?

  • baduk

    헐~(Korean WTF), is this news? Every Korean knows, or should know, that China will back up NK no matter what. They are brothers.

  • milton

    I’m currently in the middle of Yale’s iTunes U course in game theory. Have you tried it?

    Ben Polak’s course? Yes! I am working my way through that now as well. Just finished unit five this weekend.

    If you’re looking for a good introductory text, I recommend Osborne’s book ( An Introduction to Game Theory). You can get it at Kyobo and you can find all the answers to the practice problems online (always a plus for self-study). A very similar, graduate school-level version of the book, A Course in Game Theory, is available for free online, but you’ll have to have a good grasp on set theory and mathematical logic first.

  • Granfalloon

    Thanks milton!

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