In my last post I suggested that the United States and China start talking about how they would handle the collapse of the North Korean government. I should emphasize that I was not suggesting that the United States and China try to topple the North Korean regime. Beijing has zero interest in that happening right now, and we've already got more problems on our plate than we can handle.
My first point was that the North Korean regime could collapse no matter what we do (though nobody can predict when), and that it would be a good thing to have discussed how to respond in advance. My second point was that merely having such a conversation might have a sobering effect on Pyongyang, although I confess that I'm not entirely sure of that either.
I am pleased to report, however, that some people have started to think about what we should do in the event that North Korea really does start to go down the tubes. Specifically, USC's Korean Studies Institute sponsored a workshop on this topic earlier this year, and you can read a summary of their deliberations here. Kudos to the organizers, David Kang and Victor Cha, for trying to look down the road, and to help us get ready for a potentially thorny problem before it actually occurs.
Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.