Much of the discussion around North Korea has focused on a nuclear or conventional war between Pyongyang and Washington. But … if Pyongyang collapses as a result, it could lead to hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of people searching for food and shelter and refugees fleeing for China and, depending on the circumstances, South Korea.
A collapse of the North Korean government could create a humanitarian disaster for China. A mass migration of refugees trying to enter China through its northern Liaoning and Jilin provinces would present complex economic, infrastructure, and cultural and political challenges.
“If your number one national interest is … economic growth in order to hold on to social stability, having six million foreigners into provinces that have already had economic hardships before [won’t help],” said Jim Walsh, a senior research associate at MIT’s Security Studies program, who is also a board member at The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
He added: “And from a social stability standpoint—refugee camps with millions of North Koreans? Are the Chinese living there going to be thrilled about that in a context in which the economy is taking a hit because there’s been a shooting war?”
[Read full Foxtrot Alpha article outlining scenarios if armed conflict broke out between the US and North Korea]