East Asia: Greater Eurasia Scenarios
The South Korean Megachurch Spreads Its Ideological Destabilization
South Korea has one of the world’s fastest-growing evangelical Christian populations and also boasts some of the world’s largest megachurches. In and of itself, this is a benign apolitical trend about its population’s beliefs, but integrated into a regional perspective rich with recent news events, then it becomes a worrying threat of destabilization. North Korea and China are well-known atheist societies, with the former having a lot less tolerance for any form of Christianity than the latter, but both are homes to secret foreign-connected Christian sects that are hell-bent on bringing down their governments. The Christian radicals haven’t yet begun resorting to ‘traditional terrorist’ tactics in doing this, but they’re nonetheless sometimes defined as terrorists depending upon the circumstances of their capture and whatever their prior activities are revealed to have been.
South Korea figures prominently into this plot because it’s a nearby base for the type of aggressive anti-communist Christian proselytization that is undermining public trust in North Korea and China. Religion is being used as a rallying cry for bringing together different covert networks of believers in order to generate a critical mass of anti-government activists and future discontent. It’s not without reason that Beijing and Pyongyang are both so suspicious and reactionary towards secret Christian groups, as history shows that these organizations and their leading figures have regularly been used as a fifth column vanguard for earlier colonial campaigns in Africa and Asia. Nothing of that exact sort is going on in the present, but the principle is that illegal religious groups operating within China and North Korea – especially hostile proselytizing ones such as the Protestants and Evangelicals – are used as a ‘behind the gates’ force for secretly destabilizing the state from within.
Most people aren’t aware of it, but China has a very bloody history of religious leaders and cultish demigods commanding legions of followers into war, and even though the exact same cookie-cutter approach is unlikely in the present day, the idea of malevolent actors assembling hidden networks of violent anti-state resistance under the guise of religion and god is a continual threat to China’s stability, no matter what the day and age may be. The documented history of religious and cult violence in China explains Beijing’s knee-jerk reaction to the aggressive promotion of Christianity, and seeing as how South Korea is now the Asian headquarters for this ideology, it can reasonably be assessed that this demographic trend within its borders can be – and likely already is to an extent – a weaponized element of Hybrid War against China and North Korea.
THAAD Turns Northeast Asia Into A Tinderbox
The US’ preplanned move to exploit North Korea’s reactions to its military provocations has seen the deployment of the THAAD “anti-missile” system to South Korea, ostensibly to protect against Pyongyang but in reality to prepare for the future rolling out of a theater-wide system targeting Russia and China’s nuclear second-strike capabilities. As the most immediate and logical response, Russia and China said that they will begin working closer together on drafting coordinated countermeasures to this mutual threat, possibly even going as far as unveiling their own joint “anti-missile” system. What this has done is throw Northeast Asia into the forefront of the New Cold War between the unipolar and multipolar worlds and dramatically ratcheted up tensions in this corner of Eurasia.
The developing alignments are Russia-China and US-South Korea, with Japan being an ally of both of the second group of countries but not yet fully coordinated into a trilateral framework with them. The historical memory of the World War II experience is still very much alive in this part of Asia, and the publics in both South Korea and Japan are usually at odds with one another over each side’s interpretation of these events and the role (both historical and in terms of how it should presently be atoned) of Japanese Imperialism. It’s possible, though, that the higher echelon politicians and “deep state” (permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies) in each of them don’t share the populist views prevalent in their societies and are being strongly pressured by the US to integrate into this tripartite system, using of course the media-marketed gimmick of coordinating their response to North Korea.
This is a very dangerous triangle because the US is geographically insulated from the most direct consequences that it could lead to, thus making it behaving much more irresponsibly and with a touch of brinksmanship in forcing its occupied countries in the region to do its bidding, no matter how detrimental this is to their national interests. Part of what’s happening here is that the US also wants to provoke China into a rash response (as it has continually been trying to do with the South China Sea and the Indian border disputes) so that a ‘rational self-evident’ explanation can be given by the Seoul in ‘legitimizing’ why it’s working more closely with Japan and possibly even flirting with the TTP sometime in the future. Chinese-South Korean economic ties are very tight and mutually beneficial, but this is exactly what the US is trying to disrupt in a similarly adapted version to what it had attempted to do with Ukraine vis-à-vis Russia by forcing Kiev to undertake an unnecessary “civilizational choice”. Something very closely related to this is now afoot when it comes to South Korea and China, with THAAD being the equivalent for South Korea of what the EU Association Agreement was for Ukraine.
On the one hand, for as negative of a trend as it is that Northeast Asia is aligning into two separate and easily discernible blocs, on the other hand it does carry with it a veneer of vintage ‘stability’ from the Cold War era of bipolarity, since a two-bloc system is taking shape in this part of the world. On the other hand, though, the unpredictable loose cannon of North Korea sits right in the middle of both, and not only could it ‘go rogue’ one way or another and shift the balance of power, but it could also implode (whether ‘naturally’ or through US provocations such as a military coup, large-scale successful economic warfare, and/or a distant Color Revolution). Two-bloc systems are only stable so long as there’s no black hole of uncertainty literally right between them, which is the role that North Korea is playing right now. If it can be reined in and safely managed, then North Korea could be a valuable asset to the Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership in balancing against US-South Korea-Japan, but by all indications, this is a very difficult task and one which might not even be feasible at this point. Therefore, North Korea remains one of the most high-stakes uncertainties in the entire world, since whatever happens there will decisively shift the balance of power in Northeast Asia and drastically effect whether it’s the unipolar or multipolar world that comes out on top.
Korean Reunification: Qui Bono?
One of the most popular scenario projections for international relations students to partake in is imagining under what circumstances North and South Korea could ever be reunited and what impact this would have on regional affairs. To simplify, there are three possibilities for how this could realistically happen and three related outcomes:
North and South Korea go to total war with one another in which both are most likely destroyed. The ravaged battleground and remaining soldiers and mobilized civilians on each side become the backdrop to an intense US-Chinese proxy war, possibly even culminating in both side’s direct intervention into the fray just like during the First Korean War.
A military coup overthrows Kim Jong Un and quickly purges his institutional allies, leading to a sudden and swift reunification with South Korea, though one which has questionable longevity because of the surprising confusion that it elicits among regular indoctrinated North Koreans and their ‘un-cleansed’ military allies.
A military coup, Color Revolution, or Hybrid War (each of which are closely interrelated) could transpire to throw the country into chaos, as well as a combination of independently occurring or related socio-economic and/or humanitarian collapses. These latter scenario projections are less likely to results in a nationwide implosion because of the country’s history of weather such intense crises during the 1990s, and also because China would assist with food provisions if need be.
A reunified Korea would likely take one of the three following internal forms:
The Korean Peninsula is a wasteland that must now be rebuilt, with China and the rest of the Multipolar Community partaking in reconstruction efforts in the north while the US and its unipolar allies do the same in the south. A UN-led government presides over the whole landmass, but the country is still de-facto partitioned just as it was on the eve of its de-jure international separation.
Reunification never really happens in form and both Koreas continue to behave as independent units, no matter whatever political agreement they reach amongst themselves. This could happen if its destroyed or a military coup takes over and leads to an immediate breakthrough in relations between Pyongyang and Seoul. This format could be used to pacify ‘patriotic’ North Koreans who do not want immediate political reunification on South Korea’s terms but are amenable to a new form of partnership with their compatriots.
A united Korea becomes an even stronger economic powerhouse in Northeast Asia than the sum of either of its two previously independent parts could ever conceive of, with a “Korean Miracle” superceding even that of its post-Cold War German predecessor. Even if no US or South Korean troops cross the former DMZ, the newly reoriented North Korean military might direct itself against China, especially amidst an environment of American-provoked South China Sea-like hostility between the two entities (perhaps driven by the topic of ethnic Koreans in Manchuria). The ‘New Korea’ thus becomes a nuclear-equipped American ally in the heart of Northeast Asia.
The Rising Sun Returns
Prime Minister Abe is taking his country back along the path of militarism, and it’s obvious that the US intends to use his island nation as its “Lead From Behind” partner in Northeast and Southeast Asia. The recent reinterpretation of the constitution in order to allow the deployment of military assets abroad in ‘support’ of ‘allied countries’ is a dangerous sign that Tokyo is planning to play a much more assertive role all along the East Asian/Western Pacific Rimland region. It’s already been described how this is envisioned to play out in Southeast Asia, but as for its Northeastern equivalent, this will definitely see Japan flex its muscles as a naval power and continue provoking China in the East China Sea.
It’s a little-known fact, but despite being an officially ‘pacifist’ country, Japan’s “self-defense forces” are equipped with state-of-the-art munitions and have access to high-tech assets that make them a formidable (albeit undeclared) military power, and the country’s nuclear energy industry produced enough waste that Tokyo could build 1,000 nuclear bombs from it a year if the fateful decision were ever made. Even though this has yet to happen and might never actually occur, it’s unmistakable that Japan is a Great Power which must be taken seriously in all geopolitical calculations, and that the Land of the Rising Sun has finally returned to the forefront of continental affairs with the US’ full support.