6 Ways Trump Admin Is Confronting an Increasingly Belligerent China

U.S. President Donald Trump and China President Xi Jinping

Since President Donald Trump took the oath of office in January, he has taken a series of actions and used diplomatic channels to put in place many of the China policies he spoke about on the campaign trail, including confronting the nation on trade, North Korea, the South China Sea, and human rights.

Here are six ways the Trump administration has taken action against China, including the president’s tweets about trade:

Strengthened Ties to Japan, South Korea

The U.S., Japan, and South Korea sent a strong message to North Korea in March, dispatching high-tech missile defense ships to the same area where Pyongyang fired four missiles eight days earlier. The display of force was clearly meant towards North Korea, but China has also repeatedly protested any American military presence in the region.

Aegis warships from the U.S., South Korea, and Japan held exercises to improve their capability to shoot down enemy ballistic missiles, the U.S. Navy said in a statement at the time.

The U.S. Navy called the two-day drills “a trilateral missile warning informational link exercise.”

“The exercise will employ tactical data link systems to trade communications, intelligence, and other data among the ships in the exercise,” a statement from the US Navy’s 7th Fleet in Japan said.

Selling Weapons to Taiwan

The United States is selling $1.42 billion in arms to Taiwan, the first such sale under the administration of Donald Trump. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert confirmed the sale. The State Department said the package included technical support for early warning radar, high-speed anti-radiation missiles, torpedoes, and missile components.

Nauert said the sales showed U.S. “support for Taiwan’s ability to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability,” but there was no change to the United States’ long-standing “one China” policy, which recognizes Beijing and not Taipei. The United States is the sole arms supplier to Taiwan, which China deems its own and has never renounced the use of force to bring the self-ruled island under its control.

Levering Trade Negotiations

To stop advances in North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, Trump signaled a break with decades of U.S. policy in April when he used trade with China as leverage in exchange for help with North Korean aggression.

Trump offered China better trade terms if the communist regime steps in to put North Korea’s provocative behavior to an end. China accounts for 80 percent of North Korea’s foreign trade.

“We have tremendous trade deficits with everybody, but the big one is with China… and I told them, ‘You want to make a great deal?’ Solve the problem in North Korea. That’s worth having deficits. And that’s worth having not as good a trade deal as I would normally be able to make,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal in an interview a day after he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping by phone.

Issuing Sanctions for Cooperating with North Korea

The United States slapped unprecedented sanctions on a Chinese bank accused of laundering North Korean cash after Donald Trump said Beijing’s efforts to put the brakes on Pyongyang’s nuclear drive had failed.

As South Korea’s new president visited Washington, the Treasury Department announced the Bank of Dandong would be severed from the U.S. financial system for acting “as a conduit for illicit North Korean financial activity.”

President Trump has long been pushing China to do more to rein in the North Korean regime and its leader Kim Jong-un.The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) strongly condemned the Chinese government’s restrictions on Uighur Muslims’ religious practice during Ramadan in the autonomous region of Xinjiang.

“The Chinese government has taken unprecedented steps to trample on the religious freedom of Uighur Muslims particularly during Ramadan,” said USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark. “Chinese Communist Party officials were assigned to live in the homes of Uighur families in Xinjiang to prevent them from fasting and praying. This new level of control is yet another example of the Chinese government’s unacceptable repression of Uighur Muslims. We call on Beijing to abide by its international human rights commitments and cease its harassment of religious communities.”

The commission said other recent alarming developments include: new regulations prohibiting face-covering veils and beards, a ban on “extreme” Islamic baby names, and the confiscation of Uighur Muslims’ passports and Qur’ans. Uighur Muslims also continue to receive unfair trials and are harshly treated in prison, the commission reported.

Expanding Military Presence in the South China Sea

U.S. Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) was conducted near the disputed Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, the first such operation under President Donald Trump.

In response to China aggression on the South China Sea, the U.S. Navy dispatched the USS Dewey to sail within 12 nautical miles of the artificial island China has built upon Mischief Reef, which the Hague ruled was Philippine territory. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) places the limit of sovereign waters at 12 nautical miles from the land in question.

“We operate in accordance with international law. We fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” Pentagon spokesperson, Capt. Jeff Davis, told CNN confirming the operation. “We operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea.”

Condemning Human Trafficking Situation in China

The U.S. State Department unveiled its 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report Tuesday, which included a 3-tier rating for China — the lowest ranking that applies to countries that do not meet the minimum standards to prevent human trafficking and are taking no action to address the problem.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the prime author of the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, was thrilled with the ranking.

“The Trump Administration deserves high praise for the designation of China as Tier 3—the worst tier possible—for its shameful complicity in sex and labor trafficking,” Smith said.

“Secretary of State Rex Tillerson deserves the gratitude of victims and human rights defenders, calling out the Chinese government’s deplorable record and complicity in the cruelty of the sex and labor trafficking problem,” Smith said.

“China was given a pass 11 of the past 12 years, with both the Bush and Obama administrations ignoring clear evidence of the Chinese government’s record,” Smith said.

“The determination marks the first major public rebuke of China’s human rights record by the Trump administration, which has generally avoided direct public criticism of Beijing while seeking its cooperation in combatting North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” the Guardian reported.