China’s re­sponse to North Korea’s threats be­comes crit­i­cal.

The Chi­nese re­sponse to North Korea’s noisy threats be­comes ever more cru­cial

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - By Peter Morici Peter Morici is an econ­o­mist and busi­ness pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land, and a na­tional colum­nist.

North Korea’s nu­clear and mis­sile pro­grams present the United States with no good op­tions, but China’s pos­ture is a foil for its wider strate­gic ob­jec­tives. Con­ven­tional mil­i­tary ac­tion ap­pears not a vi­able op­tion. Py­ongyang’s ar­tillery bat­ter­ies could un­leash dev­as­ta­tion on Seoul be­fore U.S. forces could de­stroy its nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity.

China, as North Korea’s prin­ci­ple eco­nomic part­ner, holds the keys but has only taken lim­ited steps. Its vote in fa­vor of U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil eco­nomic sanc­tions not­with­stand­ing, it re­mains the regime’s ma­jor trad­ing part­ner. It would pre­fer not to in­sti­gate an eco­nomic cri­sis that could cause mil­lions of refugees to rush into China or re­uni­fi­ca­tion of the penin­sula un­der a U.S.-aligned regime.

The United States has broader is­sues with Bei­jing — China’s ter­ri­to­rial claims and mil­i­ta­riza­tion of ar­ti­fi­cial is­lands in neu­tral wa­ters of the South China Sea, the de­fense of Ja­pan, South Korea and Tai­wan and the $300 bil­lion bi­lat­eral trade deficit.

Skill­fully, Bei­jing has sug­gested it might do more re­gard­ing North Korea if the United States scaled back joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with Ja­pan and South Korea — i.e., Bei­jing will lean harder on the rogue state if America for­sakes its al­lies.

The United States should not ac­cede to such black­mail.

Former De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert Gates pro­poses of­fer­ing China two choices: the United States would rec­og­nize North Korea and for­swear a regime change in re­turn for hard, ver­i­fi­able lim­its on North Korea’s nu­clear weapons and mis­siles. Oth­er­wise, the United States will “heav­ily pop­u­late Asia with mis­sile de­fenses,” shoot down any­thing that “looks like a launch of an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile” and com­mit to what­ever means nec­es­sary to “con­tain this regime.”

The United States rec­og­niz­ing such a harshly re­pres­sive regime would smack of ap­pease­ment, and China won’t bite any­way. Bei­jing likes the penin­sula or­ga­nized as it is and al­though it screams U.S. de­fen­sive mis­siles could be used against it, Bei­jing has no rea­son to worry if it has no in­ten­tion of launch­ing an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic at­tack. More­over, the un­end­ing cri­sis dis­tracts Wash­ing­ton’s at­ten­tion from the other above­men­tioned Sino-Amer­i­can is­sues.

A per­ma­nently beefed up mil­i­tary pres­ence be­yond an­tibal­lis­tic mis­siles could prove quite costly to the United States. It would stretch the Navy and Air Force — al­ready overex­tended by years of war in the Mid­dle East, trou­bles in East­ern Europe with Rus­sia, and Obama-era de­fense spend­ing cuts — to the point of lim­it­ing their abil­ity to counter Chi­nese ad­ven­tur­ism in the South China Sea and else­where.

China has been quite adroit in ty­ing down U.S. pres­i­dents on nar­row is­sues and stalling, while it un­der­takes other provo­ca­tions. For ex­am­ple, per­suad­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to ne­go­ti­ate on trade in a few highly fo­cused ar­eas such as beef, while it tar­gets for whole cap­ture the mi­cro­pro­ces­sor, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and other high-tech in­dus­tries.

The United States needs a rad­i­cal re­align­ment of com­mer­cial and se­cu­rity re­la­tions with China.

We don’t need Bei­jing’s per­mis­sion to de­ploy de­fen­sive mis­sile sys­tems in Asia or let North Korea be­come a bar­gain­ing chip on other prob­lems. Rather, the United States should pur­sue a three-pronged strat­egy.

In the South China Sea, the Navy should more ag­gres­sively chal­lenge Chi­nese oc­cu­pa­tion of the ar­ti­fi­cial is­lands, and the United States should de­mand China evac­u­ate the is­lands.

On trade, the United States should de­mand that China man­age down its bi­lat­eral trade sur­plus — ac­cord­ing to a sched­ule of spec­i­fied dol­lar tar­gets — and open its mar­kets to U.S. in­vest­ment and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty on the terms its com­pa­nies en­joy in the West. Or the United States will im­pose a 40 per­cent tar­iff on Chi­nese ex­ports and sub­ject Chi­nese in­vest­ment and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty in the United States to poli­cies that mirror the Chi­nese regime.

On North Korea, the United States should pur­sue Mr. Gates’ se­cond op­tion and deny ac­cess to the U.S. bank­ing sys­tem any busi­ness in China do­ing busi­ness with North Korea — and their Chi­nese banks as well.

Over­all, we should refuse to ne­go­ti­ate on any of these ini­tia­tives un­til China agrees to a new regime re­solv­ing all these dis­putes and takes tan­gi­ble, com­plete ac­tions that ad­dress our con­cerns.

Noth­ing would hit China harder than the eco­nomic and trade sanc­tions pro­posed — and they would hurt Amer­i­cans too. How­ever, U.S. strate­gic ob­jec­tives should not be sold out for com­mer­cial gain — just as our com­mer­cial ob­jec­tives should not be sac­ri­ficed to ap­pease an emerg­ing Asian power.

The United States rec­og­niz­ing such a harshly re­pres­sive regime would smack of ap­pease­ment, and China won’t bite any­way. Bei­jing likes the penin­sula or­ga­nized as it is.

ILLUSTRATION BY LINAS GARSYS

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