Today, we are being challenged on multiple fronts by China and their aggression and expansionists policies. Clearly, their primary strategic objective is to dominate the Western Pacific and the Asian Rimland. The Rimland is the strip of coastal land that encircles Eurasia. For decades we had encouraged China’s economic growth with the hope that such growth would foster less stringent control by the totalitarian Chinese Communist Party, leading to greater freedom for the Chinese people. Clearly, this policy was misguided and has failed.
President Trump and his national security team have much ground to recover from the failed policies of the Obama administration and his predecessors. North Korea, with its aggressive nuclear weapons program, required the Trump administration’s immediate attention. As I have always said, there would be no nuclear program in North Korea without Chinese support and direct assistance, certainly not one as advanced as it is today. The support includes providing not only the technology but also those eight to ten 16-wheel Transporter-Erector Launchers (TELs) which give North Korea the capability to launch a nuclear ballistic missile within 30 minutes versus the two hours it would normally take.
Further, in my view, Chinese President Xi Jinping most likely controls the codes for all North Korean nuclear weapons. Therefore, when President Trump held his historic meeting with Kim Jong-un on 12 June in Singapore, even though Kim was sitting at the table, President Trump was actually negotiating with President Xi Jinping.
While it was reported that Kim Jong-un agreed to denuclearize North Korea, any progress in achieving that objective remains an open question. The questionable outcome reminds me of President Obama’s nuclear weapons agreement with Iran. We had our version and Iran had their version.
The next area of immediate concern is Taiwan. In that instance we should recall Chinese President Xi Jinping’s 6 October, 2017 speech before the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) 19th Party Congress, in which he declared the party’s intention to make China a “leading global power and to have a world class military.” What this actually means is that starting in 2020, China may attempt to invade and annex democratic Taiwan, and thus break up the U.S. led alliance system in Asia.
While we have President Carter’s 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which provides us with the authority to maintain a political and military relationship, but not a diplomatic one. This doctrine was reinforced by President Reagan’s 1982 six assurances, but it all may be insufficient to deter China’s invasion of Taiwan.
Gordon Chang, in a recent article, “Let’s Not Invite China to Invade Taiwan,” responded to an article by Lyle Goldstein, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College, who portrays China’s territorial ambitions as benign, and essentially argues that the U.S. must accede to China’s demands! Incredible coming from a professor at the Naval War College.
To send a clear unmistakable message to China, Chang proposes that President Trump should publicly declare that the U.S. would consider an attack against Taiwan as an attack on the U.S. He then proposed that immediately following that declaration, we should establish a Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan. Chang, in drawing this clear “red line,” cites two previous failures to make our position clear which resulted in wars and the loss of thousands of American lives. First, Secretary of State Dean Acheson’s January 1950 speech publicly drew a line of defense that did not include South Korea, and it arguably resulted in the Korean War.
The second similar situation was created in 1990 during growing tensions between Iraq and Kuwait. Ambassador April Glaspie privately told Saddam Hussein that the U.S. had “no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait.” Good old Saddam Hussein took that as a “green light” and promptly invaded Kuwait.
Lyle Goldstein wants to apply to Taiwan the failed Acheson-Glaspie formula. There is too much at stake to be sending mixed signals. As further proof of China’s anti-American objectives, on August 3, the foreign ministers of 10 member states of the Association of S.E. Asian Nations (ASEAN) and their Chinese counterpart announced agreement on a Single Draft South China Sea Code of Conduct Negotiating Text that will serve as the basis for the adoption of a code of conduct in the South China Sea. One of the rules that China proposed was that “The Parties shall establish a notification mechanism on military activities, and to notify each other of major military activities if deemed necessary. The Parties shall not hold joint military exercises with countries from outside the region, unless the parties concerned are notified beforehand and express no objection.” Clearly, this is aimed at excluding the U.S. from the South China Sea.
The Single Draft South China Sea Code of Conduct Negotiating Text is a work in progress which will take several more sessions to create a final Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, but it cannot be ignored. The U.S. must review its strategy to include a coherent overall approach to the region in order to counter China’s aggressive tactics. Our new strategy must be based on our current defense treaties with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and a new Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan. We need to expand these endorsements and treaties into a Pacific-type NATO organization which should include all our allies, including India. Time is of the essence.
This article was originally published by Canada Free Press.
The views expressed in CCNS member articles are not necessarily the views or positions of the entire CCNS. They are the views of the authors, who are members of the CCNS.