Author and columnist Gordon Chang reviewed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Asia on Monday’s Breitbart News Daily with SiriusXM host Alex Marlow.
Chang said Tillerson “spoke to the Chinese pretty harshly in private, but in public, though, he adopted China’s formulations of mutual cooperation, win-win this, and also respecting China’s core interests.”
“I think that was a mistake,” he said. “Nonetheless, we will see what the result is because, clearly, the United States and China right now have some irreconcilable interests. The Chinese want to support the North Koreans. They do that because every time the North Koreans do something provocative, we run to China, we ask for their cooperation, they get bargaining chips, and they distract us from things that are important – such as cyberattacks on American companies and the American government, of course; South China Sea; South Korea; you name it.”
Marlow noted the difficulty of reconciling China’s enormous economic and political influence with America’s objections to its authoritarian government and human-rights violations.
“My recommendations with regard to China in general is just show Beijing that we’re not afraid of them,” said Chang. “That’s going to take acts of political will. One of those acts of political will, I believe, in connection with North Korea is to start unplugging Chinese banks from the global financial system because they’ve been helping North Korea’s illicit commerce.”
“For instance, Chinese banks have been involved in money laundering. They’ve been using dollar accounts in New York,” he continued. “If we were to unplug Chinese banks, it would rock the global markets, but it would show Beijing for the first time since 1994 that we were serious about protecting the American homeland. We didn’t do that, really, in the Bush administration. We didn’t do it in the Obama administration either, because we had higher goals such as integrating China into the international system, rather than disarming North Korea.”
“What we got was a very arrogant Beijing because we fed their egos, and we got a nuked-up North Korea,” he observed. “Obviously, we’re going to have to do something that is going to be difficult for us. But because we have relentlessly pursued misguided policies, there are now no longer any no-cost solutions.”
Chang predicted the Trump administration would be forced to push China hard on a number of issues because “we’ve gotten to some very difficult positions on these various issues.”
“What Tillerson is doing is what every new administration does, and that is try to find some cooperative road with Beijing,” he said. “The Bush administration did it. The Obama administration did it. Both of them really were disappointed because Beijing did not reciprocate. Because of that, they ended up with harder policies toward the end of their terms than they did in the beginning. That’s especially true of the Obama team. At some point, I think that the United States needs to recognize what China is trying to do.”
“For instance, the New York Times has reported the allegations of David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security that China is openly permitting the North Koreans to buy components for thermonuclear weapons,” he noted. “Obviously, this is something that undercuts U.S. interests. This puts at risk millions of American lives. We need to take that into account as we structure our relations with China.”
“Yes, we should try to have cooperative relations, but we’ve also got to be realistic in understanding that China does not want good relations with us – in the sense that, yes, they do not want us to confront them, but nonetheless, they’re doing things and continuing to do things that destabilize the world, harm American interests, harm those of our friends and allies, and, of course, the international system, as well,” Chang advised.
Chang looked back to some of the books he has published, including a 2001 work entitled The Coming Collapse of China, in which he “predicted the failure of the Chinese system within ten years.”
“I’m about six years late,” he admitted.
“I also wrote a book in 2006, Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On the World, where I look at the fundamental North Korean challenge to the United States and try to figure out how we get out of that. Clearly, right now, North Korea has become, as a number of people have said, America’s number one national security threat. That’s what the Obama White House told the Trump transition team, as reported by the Wall Street Journal,” he said.
“I think that’s probably correct, as we’ve seen over the last four or five weeks. North Korea is unstable. It has a dangerously low threshold of risk. It is fast weaponizing. It will soon have a ballistic missile that will be able to carry a nuclear weapon to the lower 48 states. It already has three missiles that can reach the lower 48 states; they just can’t put a nuke on top of it. So, you know, they’re four years away from that. That means we don’t have very long to figure this out,” Chang warned.
As for the possibility of exercising military force against North Korea, Chang noted that “what Tillerson said and what North Korean media said have been said in the past.”
“With regard to North Korea, American policy has always been ‘all options are on the table.’ We will continue to have that policy, but we’re not going to engage in a preemptive strike, unless we feel that we are in danger in extremis,” he said.
“The reason is that there are 25 million South Koreans who live in their capital of Seoul, which is just 30 kilometers away from the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas. North Korea has the world’s fourth-largest military. It is forward-deployed on the DMZ with chemical weapons, biological weapons, and, of course, nukes. The casualties in Seoul would be horrendous. We’re not going to risk that unless we absolutely, absolutely have to do so,” Chang explained.
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