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In Washington, there is a conventional wisdom on North Korea that spans both parties and much of elite opinion.Somehow North Korea has maintained its system.So, the North Korean regime has tried to buy insurance.North Korea has accurately calculated that China and South Korea are more terrified of the chaos that would follow its collapse than of its nuclear arsenal.Perhaps the right way to look at North Korea is as a smart, rational, calculating government that is functioning shrewdly given its priority of regime survival. Beijing faces an understandable nightmare – under sanctions and pressure, North Korea collapses and the newly unified country becomes a giant version of South Korea, with a defense treaty with Washington, nearly 30,000 American troops and possibly dozens of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons – all on China's border.Pressure will work only if there is also some reason for North Korea to make concessions.It's a bitter pill for Washington to swallow, but the alternative is to hope that China will act against its interests and crush its ally, or that North Korea will finally collapse.
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