Hope is not a an approach in strategy planning, particularly when formulating policies to deal with a regimen that is equipped with atom weapons.

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North korean leader Kim Jong Un attends the completion of a fertilizer plant in a an ar north the the capital, Pyongyang, in an image released Saturday, might 2, 2020.KCNA / Reuters
The sudden disappearance of the young North korean dictator Kim Jong Un in April caused an international speculation and also consternation. Prior to seeming come resurface in state-sponsored media image on Friday, Kim had actually not been seen due to the fact that presiding over a conference of the North oriental Politburo on April 11. He to be conspicuously absent from the yearly observance that his grandfather"s birthday on April 15. The celebration, recognized as the "Day the the Sun," is the most important event in the North korean political calendar.

With the leader missing, rumors worrying his wellness were rampant. There to be reports that he to be recovering from heart surgical procedure at his link in Wonsan, had actually contracted the coronavirus or was under quarantine in spite of reports in the North korean media the there are no situations in the country. Others also said he died.

With the leader missing, rumors concerning his health and wellness were rampant. There to be reports that he was recovering from heart surgical procedure or to be under quarantine.

His loss was real cause for concern, since there are so many questions around what would occur if he to be to dice or also fall seriously ill.

A sudden change in the so-called Hermit Kingdom could an outcome in massive insecurity top top the oriental peninsula — or it could help smooth the way for reunification between North and South Korea. We just do no know, and therein lies the problem. Expect is no a technique in strategy planning, specifically when formulating plans to resolve a regime that is equipped with nuclear weapons.

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Kim has disappeared in past, but it was surprising the he determined to be absent at a moment of significant international turmoil. Adhering to a failed bid come negotiate a nuclear covenant with the trump administration, and also amid a an international pandemic and also rising concerns around food offers in north Korea, world leaders are not in a particularly optimistic mood.


The very legitimacy of the North oriental state is derived from the mythical narrative that Kim Il Sung (founder of phibìc Korea and also young Kim"s grandfather) was essentially a god, and also his successors have continued the cult of personality. Together Jieun Baek wrote recently in The nationwide Interest, "North Korea there is no a follower from the Kim family is prefer worshippers going to church there is no a divine being to worship." The importance of the Kim family bloodline is more enshrined in the DPRK Ten principles for the facility of the One-Ideology System. Consequently, the hereditary nature the the regimen over the previous 70 years way internal security is greatly reliant top top a smooth succession to a new leader in ~ the family.

As a result, Kim Yo Jong, Kim"s sister, shows up his most most likely successor. That elevated her to vice manager in the Party central Committee, and also she was a top member that the North korean delegation that attended the 2018 Winter Olympic games in Seoul, southern Korea, and also the nuclear summits with President Donald Trump. Yet is a heavily patriarchal society like phibìc Korea all set for a woman leader?

Kim"s older brothers is believed to tho be living in phibìc Korea but has no been checked out publicly because 2015. He was likewise passed over for leadership by his father as "unfit." Kim"s various other brother, Kim Jong Nam, to be assassinated in Malaysia in 2017. The just other close loved one who would certainly seem to have a opportunity at ascending to power is a half-uncle, Kim Pyong Il, yet he only newly returned native diplomatic posts in east Europe and has no genuine power base. A team of North oriental power brokers led by Choe Ryong Hae (head of the can be fried People"s Assembly and also thus the nominal head the state) could also attempt to create a figurehead, which can lead to infighting.


The increase of any brand-new leader(s) would still likely an outcome in an inner purge. Five of the 7 pallbearers in ~ the funeral the Kim Jong Un"s father disappeared or to be executed or banished after ~ Kim concerned power. There"s a factor that because World battle II, no family members dictatorship has ever controlled to pass strength for the third time. The most usual characteristic is rapid and also often unanticipated collapse.

The sudden downfall of the Kim regimen could result in huge instability and thousands if not millions of refugees, and also it would certainly be an international disaster. Even prior to the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the estimated 10 million people in north Korea to be in urgent need of food assistance. American penalty have had actually a significant effect ~ above food supplies.

Famine walk not take place in 2019 because China and Russia listed massive food aid and agricultural support and also ignored sanctions limits on oil exports to phibìc Korea. It is likely that only around two-thirds that the population would have received even a subsistence level the food without this assistance. There have actually been reports of added security being inserted around key locations in Pyongyang and panic purchase of necessities — despite this might be because of the pandemic.

The U.S., southern Korea, China, Russia and other nations would all be directly influenced by such enormous instability. Castle would should rapidly create a cordon sanitaire about North Korea to protect against nuclear materials or tools from being sold to rogue actors or terror organizations. North Korea possesses active nuclear material in addition to its nuclear tools stockpile, and it maintains 5,000 loads of chemistry weapons and possibly organic toxins for army use. West intelligence additional believes there are dozens of nuclear sites and missile bases in phibìc Korea that would need to be quickly secured.

As a result, the Chinese, U.S., and also South korean special operations pressures all might shot to execute your own national plans to seize phibìc Korea"s atom weapons, various other weapons of mass destruction and also associated material. Unfortunately, Beijing has resisted initiatives to talk about such contingencies, increasing the serious opportunity of a U.S.-Chinese confrontation.

Furthermore, a larger military treatment by China cannot be discounted, and also it could seek come undertake one together a U.N. "peacekeeping force." Beijing deserve to react much more quickly than the U.S., together it has much much better intelligence, is physically much closer and could confront less resistance from friendlier North korean troops if over there was massive unrest.

Another choice would be a coordinated large-scale military intervention by the U.S. And South Korea. This would very likely an outcome in straight conflict.

Another alternative would be a coordinated large-scale military treatment by the U.S. And also South Korea. This would an extremely likely an outcome in direct dispute with far-ranging elements that the North oriental military and the possibility of escalation to the use of tools of fixed destruction. Such an procedure would additional be complicated by the trumped administration"s postponement or cancellation of major joint armed forces exercises with southern Korea since 2018, and also both U.S. Plane carriers devoted to the region are battling the coronavirus.

So how can a Trump management beset by the coronavirus pandemic and also the worst economic crisis because the good Depression reaction to a parallel global crisis? it is anyone"s guess. Washington"s ability to coordinate an international an answer is also problematic at best. U.S. Relations with Beijing are at a low based on serious debates over trade, army operations in the south China Sea and the pandemic.

American connections with south Korea have actually been damaged through the trump administration"s failure to adequately top Seoul over nuclear negotiations through North Korea and also disagreements over financial support for the basing the U.S. Pressures on the peninsula.


But yet Washington determined to pat it, America"s response to the finish of the Kim routine would have a serious and long-term affect on U.S. Policy in Asia. If the U.S. Did not show up to support southern Korea fully, other oriental allies can pursue different security arrangements or higher accommodation through China, weakening American affect in the region.

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Winston Churchill once said the Soviet Union to be "a riddle covering in a secret inside one enigma," and also this is likewise true of north Korea. The loss of Kim Jong Un to be scary precisely due to the fact that it had actually so many possible internal and possibly outside implications. And his reappearance should administer impetus for a an ext careful evaluation of the effects of a North oriental regime implosion, as well as greater diplomatic initiatives to arrangement a coordinated global response.


Jeff McCausland, a retired army colonel, is national security consultant because that CBS Radio, visiting professor in ~ Dickinson College and CEO that Diamond6 leadership LLC. He commanded a battalion in combat, to be a member that the national Security Council and was dean the the U.S. Military War College. He is the author of a new book, "Battle Tested! Gettysburg leadership Lessons," easily accessible on Amazon.