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Preventing a Post-Collapse Crisis in North Korea

How to Avoid Famine and Mass Migration

The South Korean side of the DMZ near Paju, December 2017. Kim Hong-ji / Reuters

On December 12 at the Atlantic Council, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson revealed the United States had assured China that in future North Korean “eventualities,” U.S. military forces moving into North Korea would later pull back south of the 38th parallel—which currently divides North and South Korea—thereby signaling a willingness to work with Beijing to reach an understanding regarding the future of the Korean Peninsula. Similarly, the political scientist Oriana Skylar Mastro, writing in this magazine, argued that “China is no longer wedded to North Korea’s survival” and may in fact wish to cooperate with the United States in the event of a crisis.

If the regime of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un was to collapse, whether from internal problems or external force, one of the most pressing problems facing the United States, China, and South Korea—as well as one of the

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