South Korean Unification Ministry meeting Getty Images

Planning for Korean Reunification

Like the fall of the Berlin Wall, a collapse of Kim Jong-un's regime in North Korea could happen quite suddenly. To prepare for that contingency, the United States and South Korea need to assure China that a reunified Korea would not be its enemy, and that American troops would not suddenly be stationed on its border.

SEOUL – The long-simmering North Korean nuclear crisis has reached a near boiling point. Last month, the Hermit Kingdom launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of hitting major US cities. The United Nations Security Council responded with a unanimous vote to impose new economic sanctions on the country – the most stringent yet – which would cut at least one third of its annual export revenue. Since then, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump have been hurling escalating threats at each other.

At this point, it is impossible to say what will happen on the Korean Peninsula. For now, all the international community can really do is continue to leverage a combination of economic sanctions, military pressures, and diplomacy to try to get the Kim regime to the negotiating table. But, at the same time, we should consider and prepare for all eventualities, from a military conflict to the peaceful reunification of North and South Korea.

The most catastrophic scenario would undoubtedly be a military conflict. And yet the likelihood of that outcome has now actually increased, owing to the Trump administration’s recent announcement that it is reviewing its military options, including “preventive war.”

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