It's the conversation that was never had—until now, apparently. The New York Times reports that US diplomats have long tried to open a discussion with China about how things would play out if Kim Jong Un's government (and his father's before that) began to implode. US Special Forces would be engaged, but so would the Chinese military, and the two would need to coordinate. Sources say China has historically refused to discuss the hypothetical over fears details would leak and the North Korean regime would view China as hoping for its demise. But in comments to the Atlantic Council last Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson indicated the subject had been broached by both parties.
He said the US and China "have had conversations about in the event that something happened ... that unleashed some kind of instability, the most important thing to us would be securing those nuclear weapons they've already developed and ensuring that they—that nothing falls into the hands of people we would not want to have it." And if America must intervene, he has assured China it would be an in-and-out operation. "If something happened and we had to go across a line, we have given the Chinese assurances we would go back and retreat back to the south of the 38th parallel" once the nukes were secured. The Times' take: The US has made clear it would leave it to China and South Korea to figure out how to handle the country and its occupants. News recently leaked that China reportedly has a plan for North Korea refugees. (Read more North Korea stories.)