Well, seems as though China has squeezed the last drop of milk out of their cow Kim Jung-Il. They must have finally ironed out all the details regarding his ‘succession’.
The media of course is running with the most exciting facts of the day, such as South Korea being on ‘high alert’, and North Korea doing some missile test. Those two events occur almost monthly.
Sensationalist commentary from a variety of sources, is playing up the potential for power struggles, civil war, an attack on South Korea, and whatever other imaginative scenarios they can think of.
Personally, I’d like to see someone run this headline: “Kim Jong Il Dies, Same Ol’ Same Ol’ Expected”. Because really, trust me on this, nothing will change.
North Korea is a buffer and diversion that China uses brilliantly to maintain its power in eastern Asia. Having a wacky, unpredictable and seemingly dangerous country in the region forces South Korea and Japan (not to mention the U.S.) to waste a lot of time and resources, which they could instead be using against China. For example, China has been buying up a ton of land and natural resources in Africa and elsewhere in the world, which might be cause for action to some, but then KA~BLAM, the North Koreans explode a nuclear weapon, and voila, the audience’s attention has successfully been misdirected.
Besides that, maintaining North Korea prevents a unified Korea, which would be a serious economic threat to China (and possibly even a territorial threat due to the high number of ethnic Koreans living in the area north of the Koreas). And the last thing China needs is more ethnic problems to deal with. I mean, they must be tired from expending so much energy on trying to convince various peoples (see: Tibet, Taiwan, Uyghur, amongst others) that they are Communist Chinese.
To conclude, here’s an analogy for you. Think of North Korea as a piece of fine machinery (I know it’s hard), which is owned by China. It’s a complex (wacky) piece of machinery, but as long they keep it well oiled (keep the elites in North Korea, plump and happy) and make sure to replace the fuse when it has burnt out (replace the figure head/demigod in the cult of personality) then that piece of machinery, that very useful tool, will last them a lifetime.