The Ceausescu Option

The Australian is noting that China may be planning a coup against North Korean dictator Kim Jung Il. The Chinese have been cultivating ties with North Korea for years now, and have access to thousands of North Korean defectors who could easily create a replacement government more friendly to Beijing’s interests. The Australian notes:

“In today’s DPRK Government, there are two factions, sinophile and royalist,” one Chinese analyst wrote online. “The objective of the sinophiles is reform, Chinese-style, and then to bring down Kim Jong-il’s royal family. That’s why Kim is against reform. He’s not stupid.”

More than one Chinese academic agreed that China yearned for an uprising similar to the one that swept away the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989 and replaced him with communist reformers and generals. The Chinese made an intense political study of the Romanian revolution and even questioned president Ion Iliescu, who took over, about how it was done and what roles were played by the KGB and by Russia.

Mr Kim, for his part, ordered North Korean leaders to watch videos of the swift and chaotic trial and execution of Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, the vice-prime minister, as a salutary exercise.

The balance of risk between reform and chaos dominated arguments within China’s ruling elite. The Chinese have also permitted an astonishing range of vituperative internet comment about an ally with which Beijing maintains a treaty of friendship and co-operation. Academic Wu Jianguo published an article in a Singapore newspaper – available online in China – bluntly saying: “I suggest China should make an end of Kim’s Government.”

“The Chinese have given up on Kim Jong-il,” commented one diplomat. “The question is, what are they going to do about it?”

The Chinese are looking out for their own best interests in this case, and those interests are not served by a Japan and/or a South Korea brandishing nuclear weapons. The Hu government knows quite well that that’s exactly what will happen if the DPRK continues to pose a nuclear threat to the region. Therefore, it’s in their interests to see those tensions ratcheted down — and the only way to do that may be to quietly and quickly take down the DPRK’s top leadership and replace them with generals friendly to China.

In the end, that scenario is probably the best for everyone. The Chinese get a more stable neighbor that won’t wreck their hegemonic ambitions. The US, Japan, and South Korea no longer need to worry about the North’s aggression and can dismantle the DMZ. The people of North Korea can be lifted out of their current hellish situation and would gain the benefits of Chinese more moderate form of Communism.

An all-out war is untenable for all, which is why the Chinese would have to ensure that they could isolate and destroy the current regime before it could strike back. However, if they have the option of doing it, hopefully they will. The DPRK is nothing short of a nightmare; the government is tyrannical to the core, the people are starving, and the threat the DPRK poses to the region is great. If this can be solved with a quick and decisive coup, then a quick and decisive coup should take place.

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