Chinese contingency plans of action following the hypothetical collapse of North Korea's Communist regime have reportedly been leaked to the Japanese media, offering an intriguing look at how Pyongyang's staunchest ally would respond to such a cataclysmic event.
The Daily Telegraph reports that the documents were drawn up by planners from China's People's Liberation Army and calls for the creation of refugee camps on the China-North Korea border, while detaining key North Korean leaders in special camps where they can be monitored.
The idea of the camps, according to Kyodo News, which received the documents, would be twofold, preventing rival factions in North Korea or another "military power" from harming the deposed Pyongyang brass while also keeping them from directing military operations or other activities that might not be in Beijing's interest.
China's 879-mile border with North Korea is commonly crossed by defectors from the so-called Hermit Kingdom, and the planners believe that any event resulting in the fall of the country's government would result in a humanitarian crisis as millions of refugees head for the border.
Despite China's support of North Korea, Kim Jong-un's regime has fallen afoul of Beijing several times in recent months, with the Chinese government recently warning that it would "by no means allow war or chaos to occur on our doorstep" in anticipation of a fourth nuclear test by North Korea.
Veteran North Korea watchers say the timing of the leak suggests that China may have doubts about the strength of Kim Jong-un's grip on power in the totalitarian state.
“What we have learned from the collapse of other dictatorships – the Soviet Union, Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya – is that the more totalitarian the regime, the harder and faster they fall,” Jun Okumurao of the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs told the Telegraph.
"This is why we need contingency plans and I am sure that the US and South Korea have extensive plans in place, but the release of Chinese measures is new."