WASHINGTON, May 25 (Yonhap) – North Korea is expected to collapse “much sooner than many of us think” due to internal unrest, former U.S. Forces Korea commander Walter Sharp said.
Sharp, who commanded USFK from 2008 to 2011, told a symposium in Hawaii on Tuesday that he recently guaranteed new USFK commander Gen. Vincent Brooks that there would be major changes on the peninsula before his term ends, according to a Military.com report.
“First off, I believe there will be strong provocations, strong attacks by North Korea that could quickly escalate into a much bigger conflict,” Sharp told the symposium sponsored by the Association of the U.S. Army’s Institute of Land Warfare.
“Secondly, there will be instability in North Korea that I believe will lead to the collapse of North Korea much sooner than many of us think,” he said, according to the report.
Sharp said the North’s already-bad economy worsened further after China joined the latest U.N. Security Council sanctions. He also said the North’s “byeongjin” policy of simultaneously pursuing economic and nuclear development won’t work.
A bad economy and a population increasingly exposed to outside information through cellphones and broadcasts would lead to “growing internal pressure within North Korea that will force either the regime to change or to change the regime,” Sharp said.
He also called for contingency plans for the North’s potential collapse.
“I think we also need to work very hard to plan and exercise for this collapse scenario,” he said, adding that both the United Nations and China could have roles to play in the event of the North’s collapse.
Lt. Gen. Thomas L. Vandal, 8th Army commander in South Korea, was also quoted as saying at the symposium that the “pace of change has been exponential over the past three or four years” on both sides of the inter-Korean border, according to the report.
“We face a high risk of miscalculation and escalation,” he was quoted as saying.