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North Korean regime downfall inevitable

Deng Yuwen's profile: With a master of law degree, Deng Yuwen worked as associate senior editor at the Study Times run by the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Mainly researching China's reforms and social transition, Deng has published several books and hundreds of political, economic and social commentaries.

Deng's viewpoint: China's lack of control over the North Korean nuclear issue leaves a pretext for the US to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea. On the one hand, China cannot stop the plan; on the other hand, it cannot offer an effective solution to the North Korean nuclear issue. In light of this, China could use the Taiwan issue to break through the dilemma.

Taiwan issue a countermeasure to THAAD deployment

In February, the US' plan to deploy the THAAD system in South Korea entered the phase of location selection. In an interview, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed strong opposition to the plan. But one thing that China must admit is the reason for the US to deploy the THAAD system in South Korea is justifiable. Facing it, China has no countermeasures.

It is not the first time that South Korea has wanted the THAAD system deployed on its territory. In 2013, the US and South Korea held first talks on the deployment, but the two allies did not reach any substantial agreement.

Deng said that China's lack of control over the North Korean nuclear issue leaves a pretext for the US to deploy the THAAD system in South Korea.

"Previously, pressured by China's opposition, South Korea exercised restraint. But now, China indeed has no better method to abort the deployment plan, as South Korea and the US are unshakable in their determination," said Deng, adding that China could use the Taiwan issue to solve the dilemma.

The Chinese mainland could launch its unification operation including a military strike once president-select Tsai Ing-wen does something to go against the 1992 consensus, which is seen by the Chinese mainland as the bottom line for its policy toward Taiwan, argued Deng.

In Deng's opinion, the unification of Taiwan will be a golden opportunity for China to dash the plan of the US to contain China by deploying troops in the Asia Pacific region. But he acknowledged that the unification of Taiwan on the premise of Tsai's violation of the 1992 consensus will face a lot of pressures, and whether it will produce more benefits will depend on the leadership's strategic will.

In addition, Deng believes that the deployment of the THAAD system in South Korea will impel China to accelerate the development of its own defense industry, as the deployment will need a long process, which China can use to develop a "new weapons system to withstand the THAAD system".

Indecision caused North Korea's unscrupulous provocations

The key difference between China and the US on the North Korean nuclear issue is that the former is reluctant to see the deterioration of the issue which could cause radioactive contamination and refugee inflow while the latter wants more severe sanctions imposed on North Korea and even the downfall of the Kim Jong Un regime.

Deng, however, thought that China, the US and South Korea have common interest in the North Korean issue in the face of the isolated country's nuclear deterrence. Further, the common interests of China and South Korea outweigh those of the US and South Korea, as South Korea is also concerned about the nuclear contamination and refugee problem.

Some South Korean experts have criticized China for its preference toward North Korea and incompetence in exerting more influence on it by imposing stricter punishments, noting that the perfunctory attitude has led to South Korea's distrust of China.

Deng refuted the view, arguing that North Korea cannot live without the oil imported from China, which he described as one of the evidences that China still has great clout on North Korea. But China cannot withdraw its support out of concern that it might cause a refugee crisis, which Deng attributed to North Korea's increasing provocations. South Korea also faces the same problem as China, said Deng.

The researcher also denied the notion that the US and South Korea are working together to hype up the North Korean nuclear issue. He ruled out the possibility of the US establishing diplomatic relations with North Korea, as the move will disappoint American people and its ally South Korea. Deng said that the US will change its attitude unless North Korea stops its nuclear weapon development plan. For North Korea, that is impossible as it sees the nuclear weapon as an umbrella, said Deng.

'North Korean regime to probably collapse in 10 years'

"The North Korean regime will probably collapse in 10 years," predicted Deng, saying that the downfall is just a matter of time and the only question is in what way it will collapse.

Deng listed five factors that will likely lead to the meltdown of the North Korean regime.

Firstly, the natural and man-made disasters may result in public distrust of the regime.

Secondly, Kim Jong Un's high-handed policy may lead to an elite revolution, which will accelerate the fall of Kim family from grace.

Thirdly, the policy failures including the misjudgment on the nuclear issue, social development status and domestic and foreign affairs may cause the overturn of the regime.

Fourthly, the Kim Jong Un regime cannot stand the external (military) intervention, especially from an US assault, due to the small national territory.

Fifthly, North Korea is unlikely to adopt the reform and opening up policy due to fear that an opening policy will bring in Western ideas, which the regime sees as a detrimental to its ruling legitimacy. North Korean people now live in seclusion and they do not know what is happening outside their country.

(The article is translated and edited by Ding Yi)

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