Is China likely to intervene if war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula, and if so, does Beijing have the willingness and capabilities to deal safely with North Korea's nuclear program? Securing and destroying Pyongyang's nuclear weapons would be the United States’ top priority in a Korean contingency, but scholars and policymakers have not adequately accounted for the Chinese military's role in this mission. China's concerns about nuclear security and refugee flows, its expanding military capabilities to intervene, and its geopolitical competition with the United States all suggest that China is likely to intervene militarily and extensively on the Korean Peninsula if conflict erupted. In this scenario, Chinese forces would seek to gain control of North Korea's nuclear facilities and matériel. For the most part, China has the capabilities to secure, identify, and characterize North Korean nuclear facilities, though it exhibits weaknesses in weapons dismantlement and nonproliferation practices. On aggregate, however, Chinese troops on the peninsula would be beneficial for U.S. interests and regional security. Nevertheless, to mitigate the risks, the United States should work with China to coordinate their movements in potential areas of operation, share intelligence, and conduct combined nuclear security training.

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