Uncoordinated military intervention by China, South Korea or the United States in the event of North Korea's collapse could lead to war between the U.S. and China, a U.S. research institute said.
RAND Corporation raised the prospect in a report titled, "War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable," saying the two super powers are in a row over a series of issues that could lead to a military confrontation.
Other situations that could turn violent included China and Japan skirmishing over disputed territory in the East China Sea; Chinese harassment to press its territorial claims in and to the South China Sea; and Chinese threat or use of force to intimidate or seize Taiwan, according to the report.
"War between the United States and China could be so ruinous for both countries, for East Asia, and for the world that it might seem unthinkable. Yet it is not," the report said. "China and the United States are at loggerheads over several regional disputes that could lead to military confrontation or even violence between them."
As to the North's action in the event of a U.S.-China war, the report said Pyongyang is unpredictable.
"Although North Korea no longer has the conventional military capability to invade and defeat South Korea, it could use missiles against South Korea or Japan; although Seoul would almost certainly not enter a war against China in any case, Tokyo’s options would be complicated by North Korean belligerence," it said.
The report said that a Sino-U.S. war would be regional and conventional, and be waged mainly by ships on and beneath the sea, by aircraft and missiles of many sorts, and in space and cyberspace, but it is unlikely nuclear weapons would be used.
"Even in an intensely violent conventional conflict, neither side would regard its losses as so serious, its prospects so dire, or the stakes so vital that it would run the risk of devastating nuclear retaliation by using nuclear weapons first," the report said.
War would harm both economies, the report said.
"Damage to China's could be catastrophic and lasting: on the order of a 25?35 percent reduction in Chinese gross domestic product in a yearlong war, compared with a reduction in U.S. GDP on the order of 5?10 percent," it said.
Even a mild conflict, unless ended promptly, could weaken China's economy. A long and severe war could ravage China's economy, stall its hard-earned development, and cause widespread hardship and dislocation, the report said. (Yonhap)