This article, published today at PJ Media, deals with a September report by the Russian Institute of World Economy and International Relations. The institute apparently foresees the collapse of North Korea and the eventual reunification of Korea under the South Korean government, a result the Institute considers good for Russia. The Institute appears to include many of the Russian elite and is run by the Russian government. According to a South Korean Foreign Ministry official, the report is “an official declaration by the Russian government of welcoming unification on the Korean Peninsula led by the South”
I have yet to find the text of the institute’s report but it was widely reported in the South Korean press. As noted in Dong A-Ilbo,
Russia has shunned using the term “collapse” for the North, so it is unusual for the think tank, which helps devise Moscow’s foreign policy, to consider the collapse of the North as a fait accompli. This signals that either the North is showing abnormal signs that cannot be taken lightly or Russia is making a major change in its assessment of the North’s status. Moscow has apparently judged that the North is on a downward path toward collapse and that the path is rapidly narrowing.
Although China has occasionally seemed frustrated with North Korea, they retain a symbiotic relationship. China’s acceptance of reunification, as summarized by President Hu, envisions neither collapse of the North nor reunification under Seoul.
Chinese President Hu Jintao has said that “independent and peaceful reunification” of the two Koreas is “in the fundamental interest” of both sides.
Asked whether China believes “that reunification of the Korean peninsula will bring more stability than maintaining the status quo?” Hu said, “As a close neighbor and friend of [both Koreas], China hopes that the North and the South will improve relations and achieve reconciliation and cooperation through dialogue and consultation and eventually realize independent and peaceful reunification, and we support their efforts in this regard. This is in the fundamental interests of both the North and the South and conducive to peace and stability on the peninsula.”
The Chinese leadership has expressed support for reunification independent of the military and political influence of the U.S. and led by the two Koreas themselves several times. But it has been widely believed to prefer the status quo for strategic reasons. (Emphasis added)
The Russian institute sees the transition of power in North Korea from Kim Jong-il to his son, Kim Jong-un as the catalyst for the collapse. That transition has already begun and the actual transfer of power could come as soon as next year.
As noted in my PJ Media article, North Korea is a black hole
Little light emerges and what does is refracted often beyond the comprehension of westerners. That Papa Kim is portrayed even in North Korean propaganda as what we would consider a queer duck further complicates our comprehension of the people’s understandings and loyalty to him. Do most believe the nonsense or privately snicker at it?
Predictions about what will happen next week are difficult. Projections running out twenty years or longer are more difficult and less likely to be right. That’s why contingency plans must be updated, continuously, based on available facts and cautious speculations beyond those rooted in western culture.
The United States may or may not have human intelligence personnel on the ground in North Korea. That would be difficult for the United States; most any Asian can easily distinguish Koreans from Japanese, Chinese, etc. Koreans can easily detect non-Koreans, even those who speak Korean fluently. Although it appears that the internet is becoming increasingly available to the elite in North Korea, reliable sources of human intelligence remain necessary and so do analysts long immersed in the Korean culture. South Korea very likely has such sources in the North and her intelligence analysts are best able to understand what is discovered.
Our strategic interests are for the most part aligned with South Korea’s. Like it or not, we need to give substantial credence to the perceptions of South Korean intelligence personnel of what’s happening in the North, while pursuing our own best interests and preparing for what may happen. Kim Jong-il may chose to go out with a bang or a whimper; we do not know which. Subtle signs will be there. While preoccupied with looking through dark and cloudy glasses at our economy, the Middle East, and other troublesome sights, we must detect and understand the signs from Korea, lest we find ourselves over our heads in kimchi.