Secret State Department cables released through news outlets Monday show the U.S. planning for the day North Korea implodes from its own economic woes, which a South Korean official is quoted as saying could happen "two to three years" after the death of the current dictator, Kim Jong Il.
The Obama administration has called the latest leak of secret government documents by the website WikiLeaks a threat to national security, but it is also a major embarrassment, CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reports.
The collapse of North Korea would be a cataclysmic event and planning in advance makes sense, but the revelation will only fuel North Korea's paranoia.
The secret U.S. government document reported on Monday, day two of the timed Wikileaks release by the New York Times and other international outlets, was written in February. In it, South Korea's vice foreign minister not only predicts the collapse of North Korea but also is extremely critical of China.
China has "no will" to use its economic leverage to force North Korea to change its policies and the Chinese official who is the lead negotiator with North Korea is "the most incompetent official in China," the official said, according to the leaked document.
The Times reported that, in the event of a sudden unification, South Korea would plan business deals with China over the mineral-rich part of the north in order to warm the country to the north's collapse.
The United States, however, would unlikely be welcomed by China north of the demilitarized zone currently separating the north and south, the Times reported.
The document is one of hundreds of thousands obtained by WikiLeaks. First the online site released battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, it has moved on to diplomatic cables, more than 250,000 of them, some with.
"The United States deeply regrets the disclosure of any information that was intended to be confidential," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters Monday afternoon. "Disclosures like these tear at the fabric of the proper function of responsible government."
So far WikiLeaks has only released a fraction of the quarter-million diplomatic cables it intends to distribute, but it has left the U.S. mortified that it could not protect its secrets.
"When you take things like that out of context, it certainly, I think, helps no one but hurts diplomatically," former President Jimmy Carter said in
The White House has, and the Justice Department opened a criminal investigation.
More on WikiLeaks
Clinton: Document Leak an Attacks on U.S., World
Hoekstra on WikiLeaks: "A Number of Time Bombs"
Outrage Over Wikileaks
The WikiLeaks Impact
WikiLeaks Releases State Dept. Documents
Key GOP Pol: WikiLeaks a Terrorist Group
Ahmadinejad Dismisses WikiLeaks Cable "Mischief"
U.S. Cables: Iran Armed Hezbollah Via Ambulances
Hoekstra: World's Trust in U.S. Now at Risk
U.S. Encouraged Diplomats to Spy, Leaks Show
Leaked Cables Shine Light on Iran Nuclear Threat
White House Condemns WikiLeaks' Document Release
WikiLeaks Defies U.S., Releases Embassy Cables