With the UN calling for Kim Jong Un to be held accountable for Nazi like human rights abuse in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, it is worth bearing in mind what any escalation in North Korea would mean. The ensuing proxy war between the US and China is likely to have dramatic consequences.
James Dobbins in the dystopian titled academic journal ‘Survival: Global Politics and Strategy’ says that conflict in North Korea is the most likely of the sources for US/Chinese conflict and could lead to other conflict in a domino effect of Sino-Yank aggression.
The most likely trigger is in fact internal instability in North Korea. Something announcements like this from the UN is not going to help. Internal instability could currently lead to riots and regime collapse. While European English School theorists may condone the overthrow and neo conservatives like the idea of the possibility of a new democracy in the world, it would in fact be a disaster.
A confused, hungry and scared populous would flock to Chinese and South Korean borders. This would bring Chinese Shengyang Military units in to stem the flow of refugees and US/South Korean troops to the other border to do the same.
The US troops will also look to enter North Korea for a multitude of reasons 1) to confirm any intelligence they have had on North Korea, a test of its reconnaissance work over the last 30 years. 2) To have photographs taken like the Iwo Jima of US troop liberating the oppressed as to increase its damaged rep throughout the world, and most importantly 3) To secure known and unknown North Korean military based nuclear weapons and facilities. An unstable regime, as US boots advanced may wish to deploy nuclear weapons towards US bases in the region (if they can reach yet) and to Seoul itself. Did the UN think of this when it stoked the fire? Did it think what a crumbling North Korean regime would do as it was being invaded. Hitler ordered the burning of Paris before he shot himself and his wife, only for the local commander to refuse.
The UN making statements like it has may eventually get into North Korea via the steam of DVDs and USBs that are either smuggled in on boats or by balloon drop from China and Japan. It could engineer instability that would create a Chinese/US stand-off as they meet in the middle. Neither side would want to concede the state to the other. China would not want such close US forces (on the border) and US would not want further Chinese territorial gain.
Dobbins goes on from here to suggest that this would only be the start. This stand-off would lead to Chinese cyber warfare on US satellites working in the area. Chinese technology and knowhow in this sector of warfare is much more advanced and developed than the US and the US would retaliate likewise by engaging in cyber warfare through disrupting commercial shipping IT systems and transport. While this local cyber warfare is going on Dobbins states that China would also be looking to take advantage of this ability and try and exfiltrate US intelligence on the Chinese nuclear position.
China could also look to make good on intentions of repatriating Taiwan and make amphibious landing on the island. This would stretch US forces in particular its special forces that look to take on most of the tactical ground troop work. China would be unlikely to do the same with the disputed Diaoyu islands at this time due to the risk of bringing Japan into the foray and its proximity to South Korea.
The US can play the long game and starve China of energy as they control the oil routes through the Straits of Adan and Malacca through which China receive most of its oil but short term, especially in the cyber departments China could make a real impact.
UN should concentrate on encouraging openness and stability inside North Korea not make accusations and threaten its leader with court cases that would only make the failed state more hermitic. This kind of self-indulgent rhetoric on North Korean by the UN does not help its people and as I have set out with the help of Dobbins article, only makes war between China and the US and it possible trajectory more likely.