U.S. Intel Official: North Korea Is Bluffing

I totally understand your position, but it is certainly conceivable if- as you put it- China was going to basically finance the whole thing.

They stand to gain:

  • a. additional financing revenue (although we are crapping ourselves here in the States about debt, China apparently still has a relatively high degree of confidence that we can perform on our international debts; looming American austerity overtures slated for roll out in 2011 have [rightly] bolstered that confidence in us)
  • b. the end of dealing with the open sore that is N. Korea; leaked documents suggest some in China are fed up with the instability caused by NK.
  • c. a new and prosperous neighbor, led out of Seoul
Its also of note that China has apparently drawn a "hard line" on the fact that they officially want no US forces to proceed past the current DMZ.
The only way I can see China settling for a unified Korean peninsula with Seoul as its capital- that's NOT dominated by a sympathetic (i.e. Communist) regime is if it got something major it wanted out of the deal. Like, I don't know, maybe Taiwan. And boy would China be getting the better deal out of that.
North Korea isn't exactly unwanted by China. They're a useful conduit for all sorts of things for the PRC.

And remember that just because China said they would be open to the idea of a unified Korea to a US diplomat doesn't mean they actually are open to it. Diplomacy isn't always about telling the truth!

Another thing to consider, and it's a very low consideration, is the prospect of China annexing DPRK.
I don't think NK is interested in war. They are once again throwing a tantrum and they are getting exactly what they want. They have Bill Richardson in country to talk and there will soon be an announcement of a new financial aid package that will include food commitment like 100 million or more worth of wheat etc. The size of the deal will be dependant on how much they want to open there country up for nuclear inspections.

Being belligerent is the only way for NK to get attention. They are playing the only hand they know to get more foreign aid.

Trying to have the Korean Peninsula go through a reunification would be a bigger mess then when West Germany reunified with East Germany and would be a huge financial burden on the international community and the US.