Archive for the ‘China’ category

Taiwan Receives U.S. Navy Frigates, Plans Purchase of American Fighter Jets

March 20, 2017

Taiwan Receives U.S. Navy Frigates, Plans Purchase of American Fighter Jets, Breitbart, Frances Martel, March 20, 2017

AP/Daniel Morel

The government of Taiwan is planning to request the purchase of new fighter aircraft from the United States, The Guardian reported today, just as it completes the transfer of two decommissioned U.S. Navy frigates. The move comes amid concerns that the Communist Party in Beijing is seeking to crack down on the pro-independence government of President Tsai Ing-wen.

The Guardian cites Taiwanese Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan as alerting the nation’s legislature that his government is seeking to purchase more modern aircraft to replace its currently fleet of F-16s. Feng’s request for more modern aircraft was a response to a review of Taiwan’s defense capabilities recently released by his ministry and published every four years. The review warned that the Chinese government had significantly expanded its ability to attack Taiwan is necessary. China has invested heavily in military construction in the South China Sea, particularly in regions that are not sovereign Chinese territory but China insists has belonged to them since ancient times.”

The fighter jet purchases are part of a greater proposed defense spending increase in the year’s budget. The South China Morning Post reports that Taiwan is looking to increase its defense spending from two to three percent of its GDP in 2018, a high not seen since 1999. This would mean spending up to $11.4 billion on defense. Tsai’s predecessor, the Kuomintang Party’s Ma Jing-yeou, took a conciliatory approach to relations with Beijing.

The Guardian notes that China is proposing a seven percent increase in its defense spending to $151 billion.

The budget announcement also featured the revelation that Taiwan was now capable of launching missiles that can hit the Chinese mainland, a distance of nearly one thousand miles.

Taiwan recently expanded its naval capability by receiving two decommissioned American Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, who began their sail out of American port on March 9. The frigates are expected to begin active duty for the Taiwanese defense forces in May.

The Chinese government appears concerned with Taiwan’s moves to protect itself from a mainland invasion. State propaganda outlet Global Times published a column Friday warning Taipei to abandon hopes of being recognized as a sovereign nation and instead accept the status China insists it has as a rogue province. “No soldiers believe Taiwan forces are capable to defend the island if the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) launches a comprehensive offensive against Taiwan,” the column reads. “As long as the Tsai government accepts of the 1992 Consensus, the island’s security will be ensured. The eight-year-tenure of Ma Ying-Jeou is the most secure period Taiwan has enjoyed since entering the 21st century.”

“Therefore, the most important thing for Taiwan is not to provoke the one-China policy. This is the correct political way to protect the island’s security,” the column concludes.

Taiwan did just that late last year following the election of President Donald Trump in the United States. President Tsai called Trump to congratulate him on his election victory and Trump, in an unprecedented move, accepted the call, implying he understood Tsai to be a fellow head of state. The Chinese communist government condemned Tsai and insisted in assurances from Washington that the Trump administration would not abandon the “One China” policy, which demands foreign nations also deny Taiwan’s sovereignty. Trump reportedly agreed to the One China policy in a February phone call with President Xi Jinping.

Tsai, meanwhile, has insisted on respect for her nation’s self-governance. In a speech in January, Tsai condemned Beijing for “going back to the old path of dividing, coercing, and even threatening and intimidating Taiwan.” “For the sake of safeguarding regional peace and prosperity, I want to once again reiterate that our commitments will not change, and our goodwill will not change. But we will not bow to pressure, and we will of course not revert to the old path of confrontation,” she promised.

China, U.S. in talks on meeting between presidents

March 18, 2017

China, U.S. in talks on meeting between presidents, Xinhuanet, March 18, 2017

(Even without trying to analyze this, I understand it:

No matter how hard I try to derive any substance from the following article, I can’t. It must have been written in Chinese and then translated into “diplospeak,” a universal language designed to convey as little substance as possible.– DM)

On the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, Wang also expressed his hope that all concerned parties, including the U.S. side, would be cool-headed and make wise choices.

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BEIJING, March 18 (Xinhua) — China and the United States are now in close communication on arrangements for a meeting between the two presidents and exchanges at other levels, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during his talks with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Saturday.

“We attach great importance to your visit,” Wang told Tillerson at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing.

It is Tillerson’s first visit to China since he assumed office last month.

“We have had in-depth discussions on a meeting between the two presidents and begun preparations,” Wang told reporters after their talks.

He said that the two sides agreed to keep close communication to ensure the success of the meeting between the two presidents as well as exchanges at other levels.

China-U.S. ties are now developing positively and steadily, Wang said, calling for implementation of the consensus reached by Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Wang said China is willing to communicate and cooperate more with the U.S. side, enhance trust and handle differences properly, in a bid to promote a healthy and stable development of bilateral ties and benefit the people of both countries and the world at large.

Wang called for more cooperation in foreign affairs, the economy and trade, the military, law enforcement, people-to-people exchanges and sub-national communication.

China and the United States should do more to coordinate on major international and regional affairs, Wang said, calling for closer communication under the multilateral framework.

Wang also restated China’s position on Taiwan and the South China Sea issues, emphasizing that China and the United States should respect each other’s core interests and major concerns, properly handle sensitive issues to protect bilateral ties from unnecessary influences.

Reviewing the achievements of bilateral ties, Tillerson said it is necessary for both countries to have closer cooperation and coordination, noting that the United States is ready to work with China to implement the consensus reached by their leaders.

Tillerson said the U.S. side adheres to the one-China policy and is willing to explore more cooperation in the spirit of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.

The U.S. side stands ready for more high-level exchanges, and more dialogue in diplomatic security, macroeconomic policy coordination, law enforcement, cyberspace and people-to-people exchanges.

The two sides exchanged views on the current situation on the Korean Peninsula and other issues of common concern. Wang reiterated China’s opposition to the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in the Republic of Korea (ROK).

On the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, Wang also expressed his hope that all concerned parties, including the U.S. side, would be cool-headed and make wise choices.

Tillerson began his first Asian tour Wednesday taking in Japan, the ROK and China.

Former Ambassador John Bolton: Trump Needs to Renegotiate ‘One China’ Policy

February 27, 2017

Former Ambassador John Bolton: Trump Needs to Renegotiate ‘One China’ Policy, Washington Free Beacon, February 27, 2017

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton on Friday urged President Donald Trump to upend  four decades of precedent by renegotiating the “One China” policy that denies Taiwan’s sovereignty.

Bolton told the Washington Free Beacon in an exclusive interview that the One China policy, which was established during President Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, is “ahistorical” and fails to reflect the current reality in East Asia, where natives of Taiwan overwhelmingly identify as “Taiwanese” rather than “Chinese.”

“The One China policy is inherently ambiguous,” Bolton said. “China thinks it means one thing, we think it means another.”

Beijing maintains that One China means the People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate China, encompassing Taiwan.

But the Shanghai Communiqué agreed to by the United States and China explicitly says the United States “acknowledged” that “all Chinese” on either side of the Taiwan Straight believe “there is but one China.” The pact does not deny Taiwan’s sovereignty on its face.

“A clear relationship with both Beijing and Taipei on this would help all concern rather than [having] this phrase which means anything and nothing,” Bolton said.

Earlier in the day, Bolton told an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside of Washington, D.C., that the Trump administration needs to “make clear” there will never be reunification between China and Taiwan without the “express, overwhelming consent” of those living in Taiwan.

“It’s time for constructive clarity,” Bolton said. “We support the people of Taiwan. We support their continued self-government, independent of China.”

Bolton predicted that China will be the top strategic issue facing the United States in the 21st century. He said the president needs to immediately demand that China back down in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

Bolton also suggested the Trump administration pressure China to pursue Korean reunification to “eliminate” the North Korean regime. He urged the president to end the Iran nuclear deal “as soon as possible” and said the United States needs to renegotiate the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia so that the United States can rebuild its nuclear deterrent in the face of Moscow’s ongoing treaty violations.

“There’s only one country in the world that’s bound by this treaty—China’s not bound by it, North Korea and Iran aren’t bound by it, theoretically Russia is, but they don’t pay any attention to it,” Bolton said. “There’s only one country that can’t build intermediate-range nuclear forces and that’s us.”

Bolton is a vocal advocate of an expansive U.S. foreign policy that promotes American values abroad. He says the greatest threat to the nation is “self-induced weakness” that was characteristic during the Obama years.

The former ambassador told the Free Beacon he believes Trump would be successful in reversing many of former President Obama’s foreign policy initiatives within his first term, especially if he models his actions after the Reagan administration.

“It took Reagan a substantial amount of time to create a defense expenditure buildup to give us the kinds of military force that we needed to speak from a position of true strength, and I think Trump is going to have to go through the same process with correcting the mistakes of the eight Obama budgets,” Bolton said.

“At the same time, Reagan said right from the beginning that he was going to pursue a very different foreign policy and the political strength of his determination to do that gave us cover while we rebuilt the military and I think Trump should follow that approach too … It would’ve been a lot different if we had a Clinton administration and had not just an eight-year hole to climb out of but a 12-year hole,” he added.

Bolton was a finalist to fill the national security adviser position left open by the resignation of retired Gen. Mike Flynn.

Trump said the administration would ask Bolton to serve in a “somewhat different capacity” after it announced the selection of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster for national security adviser on Monday.

“John is a terrific guy. We had some really good meetings with him. Knows a lot,” Trump said from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. “He had a good number of ideas that I must tell you I agree very much with. So we’ll be talking with John Bolton in a different capacity.”

Bolton did not comment on those talks.

US twin sea buildup against China, NKorea, Iran

February 19, 2017

US twin sea buildup against China, NKorea, Iran, DEBKAfile, February 19, 2017

The conventional thinking until now was that, in the event of an Iranian clash with the US or Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, Tehran would push back by blocking the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Today, American forces have been placed in position to prevent Iran from blocking the Strait of Mandeb, and so choking the main sea route used by oil and merchant shipping sailing to and from the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal, by posting missile bases on Yemen’s western Red Sea coast.

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Donald Trump marked his first month as US President with two major military gambits in the Middle East, Asia and the South China Sea. Early Sunday, Feb. 19, the US Navy said that the Nimitz-class USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and strike group had begun patrols in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. With them are three air squadrons coming from their Naval Air Station Lemoore: the USS Lake Champlain guided missile cruiser and two guided missile destroyers, the USS Michael Murphy and the USS Wayne E. Meyer.

The deployment comes after Beijing’s warning that a US naval unit sailing near the disputed Spralys, where China has built islands and a military presence, would be seen as a violation of sovereignty, which the US and Japan refuse to recognize.

The Trump administration’s move therefore opens up a potential arena of confrontation between the US and China.  It also caries a message for North Korea, which Trump has called “a big, big problem and we will deal with that very strongly.”

A week ago, on Feb. 12, North Korea launched a missile, using new “cold eject” technology which makes it possible to fire a missile from a submarine. Military experts in Washington and Jerusalem estimate that once Pyongyang has perfected the system, it will be passed to Tehran, an eventuality covered in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s White House talks with President Trump last week, our sources reveal.

Our military sources add that while Washington has publicly announced the transfer of a naval-air force to the South China Sea, the deployment of the large 11th Marine Expeditionary Combat Unit to the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea is being kept low key.

The conventional thinking until now was that, in the event of an Iranian clash with the US or Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, Tehran would push back by blocking the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Today, American forces have been placed in position to prevent Iran from blocking the Strait of Mandeb, and so choking the main sea route used by oil and merchant shipping sailing to and from the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal, by posting missile bases on Yemen’s western Red Sea coast.

The 4,500-strong contingent of MEC marines and sailors is supported by the fighters and attack helicopters on board the USS Makin Island amphibious assault ship, the USS Somerset amphibious transport and the USS Comstock dock landing ship. Their task is to keep the strategic waterway open and safe.

The deployment of the USS Cole destroyer around the strait was announced on Feb. 3, days after a suicide boat attack by Yemeni Houthi rebels on the Saudi frigate Al Madinah off the Yemeni port of Al Hudaydah.

DEBKAfile’s military analysts note that the deployment of these naval and air forces in two international maritime arenas offers President Trump a flexible operational scenario. He can order one of those forces to go on the offensive as a warning to hostile elements in the other one – or go into action in both simultaneously – for example the US could strike North Korean and Iranian targets synchronously.

In line with these moves, a US flotilla departed its Arabian Sea base at Duqm in Oman on Feb. 12 and is sailing towards Bab Al Mandeb.

Tehran reacted Monday, Feb. 20, by embarking on a large-scale three-day military exercise titled Grand Prophet 11. Gen. Mohammed Pakpour, commander of the Revolutionary Guards ground forces, announced that the drill would include missile launches, without specifying their types or ranges.

Iranian leaders have repeatedly stated that they would not allow American warnings to deter them from their missile program, any more than Pyongyang hesitated to fly in the face of those warnings. Those warnings are now backed up by America’s sea and air might in combat positions.

Not Satire | UC San Diego Students Protest Visit by ‘Oppressive and Offensive’ Dalai Lama

February 17, 2017

UC San Diego Students Protest Visit by ‘Oppressive and Offensive’ Dalai Lama, Heatstreet, Kieran Corcoran, February 16, 2017

(Why not invite someone more favorable to China and less oppressive? How about Kim Jong-un? Or Nicholas Maduro? Or even Xi Jinping? — DM)

dalilama

China is prepared to take advantage of a newly censorious atmosphere on campus – and its supporters are happy to use the posture of SJWs to get their way.

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Students at the University of California, San Diego are protesting an upcoming visit by the Dalai Lama – claiming the Tibetan leader is “oppressive”.

Chinese students are leading objections to the event, which will see the Dalai Lama give a commencement speech on graduation day.

They have claimed that his presence is offensive because of his campaign to make Tibet more independent – contrary to the Communist government’s position that Tibet is a region of China under their control.

Arguments over Tibetan independence have raged for decades – but this dispute is remarkable because activists are conducting it through the language of social justice.

As noted by Quartz, the Chinese student association framed their complaints as an example of cultural oppression and a problem of equality.

A statement accused university leaders of having “contravened the spirit of respect, tolerance, equality, and earnestness—the ethos upon which the university is built.”

One student posting on Facebook said: “So you guys protest against Trump because he disrespects Muslims, blacks, Hispanics, LGBT.., but invites this oppresser [sic] to make a public speech?? The hypocrisy is appalling!”

Likewise, an alumni group based in Shanghai said UCSD will be breaching its ethos of “diversity” and will leave them “extremely offended and disrespected” if the Dalai Lama’s speech dips into the political.

Chinese officials are known to be extraordinarily hostile to any groups who get close to the Dalai Lama, and do their best to punish governments who engage with the exiled Tibetan regime.

They consider the Dalai Lama a threat to stability in China, akin to a terrorist who wants to split the country.

This is despite his stated aim being increased autonomy – rather than outright independence – for Tibet, which he fled in 1959.

His insistence on peaceful protest and non-violent resistance won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. It is hard to see who he is oppressing by touring the world, giving speeches and promoting peaceful opposition to China.

Questions have been raised about whether the Chinese government is directly involved in lobbying against the address.

A statement by the Chinese Students and Scholars Association originally said it was seeking support from the Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles, but later denied that claim.

Government officials are certainly not above getting involved in campus politics.

At the University of Durham in northern England, the Chinese Embassy in London tried to stop a Chinese-born activist and beauty queen speaking in a debate.

Anastasia Lin, a Miss World Canada winner, was asked to speak at the Durham Union Society on whether China was a “threat to the West”

But the students organizing the debate received angry calls from embassy officials, claiming that if Lin spoke it could damage UK-China relations, according to a BuzzFeed report.

The students ignored them and went ahead with the debate anyway (Lin’s side lost).

But the incident underlines that China is prepared to take advantage of a newly censorious atmosphere on campus – and its supporters are happy to use the posture of SJWs to get their way.

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, February 13, 2017

February 13, 2017

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, February 13, 2017, Pacific Daily Times, February 13, 2017

(How and to what extent can the “one China policy” be ameliorated without being abandoned? What impacts should China’s military adventures in the South China Sea and its highly permissive treatment of North Korea have? — DM)

The delay itself is a message to China like a father telling the disobedient son to wait his turn while everyone else at the dinner table has first choice. To China’s “indirect-implication” culture, it was no less than a smack in the face, no matter how friendly and reportedly positive the phone call was. No doubt China feels this somewhat, though President Xi probably doesn’t take the snub as seriously as he should.

Trump knew that Beijing would jump to report the phone call to give President Xi notoriety, forgetting the deeper implication that the phone call didn’t happen for three weeks into Trump’s term. Now, the Chinese people know that Trump didn’t talk to their president until three weeks after taking office, yet he received a phone call from Taipei only days after he was elected—Beijing made sure the people knew that. When trying to control information in one’s own country, that was an oversight. If Beijing were wise to the three-week snub, no newspaper in China would be allowed to report the phone call until two months later, with the comment, “Oh, they are presidents. They talk when it suits them.”

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After three weeks, President Trump finally had his phone call with Chinese President Xi. The report is that Trump will uphold the United States’ long-standing “One China” policy, in which China proper and the island of Taiwan are one country and that country’s government seat is in Beijing. The effect is that the United States does not have an “embassy” with Taiwan, but the US has an “institute” and Taiwan an “economic and cultural” office; both are still considered envoys and consulates, offering passport and visa services. While self-important voices in news and politics view the phone call as a phone call, much more is happening beneath the surface, and Beijing may only be partially aware of what all is going on.

Being a Socialist State, China’s government is itself in business, both cooperative and competitive. China’s Communist Party can directly compete with social companies like Facebook, news networks like CNN, web service companies like Google, almost any manufacturer, and, of course not in the least, construction. China’s former business associate and new “boss”, as it were, of America calls all the “important” countries in the world, except China. The delay itself is a message to China like a father telling the disobedient son to wait his turn while everyone else at the dinner table has first choice. To China’s “indirect-implication” culture, it was no less than a smack in the face, no matter how friendly and reportedly positive the phone call was. No doubt China feels this somewhat, though President Xi probably doesn’t take the snub as seriously as he should.

Even allowing State-controlled newspapers, such as Xinhua news, to let three weeks of silence be known merely by reporting the phone call shows that Trump knows how to cut through promulgated gate keeping. Knowing how his old trading partner thinks, Trump knew that Beijing would jump to report the phone call to give President Xi notoriety, forgetting the deeper implication that the phone call didn’t happen for three weeks into Trump’s term. Now, the Chinese people know that Trump didn’t talk to their president until three weeks after taking office, yet he received a phone call from Taipei only days after he was elected—Beijing made sure the people knew that. When trying to control information in one’s own country, that was an oversight. If Beijing were wise to the three-week snub, no newspaper in China would be allowed to report the phone call until two months later, with the comment, “Oh, they are presidents. They talk when it suits them.”

In social battles of implication and indirection, the Chinese have endurance and mastery, but the West has a less frequent and even more subtle way of implication that often eludes the East. It is difficult to recognize deep implication when implication is used on a daily basis for routine communication. Americans trust Trump with China more, now, knowing that he can snub them for three weeks and State-run Xinhua news will consider it a “good first step”.

There are other problems—not being able to quit while so far ahead and declare victory after 70 years of war on the books, the US selling weapons to Taiwan—but the three week snub “trumps” them all. American people have often asked themselves who China thinks they are fooling. After this three-week snub thoroughly reported under the title of a “phone call”, the American people, Democrats and Republicans alike, certainly know who is successfully fooling China.

Uncertain Futures: China, Trump and the Two Koreas

February 10, 2017

Uncertain Futures: China, Trump and the Two Koreas, 38 North, February 9, 2017

(Kim Jong-un may be insane. Or, like his predecessors, he may pretend to be insane to make predictions about his behavior very difficult and often impossible. China’s leaders are not insane, they are merely devious. Dealing with them has been, and will continue to be, very difficult. — DM)

China waving flag on bad day

China waving flag on bad day

At the beginning of the Trump administration, the situation on the Korean peninsula is highly uncertain and potentially volatile. During a late January research trip to Beijing, “uncertainty” and “concerns” were the keywords that best characterized how Chinese scholars and officials are feeling about Trump and the two Koreas. During his presidential campaign, Trump suggested that he would be willing to negotiate with North Korea directly. However, that scenario has become more uncertain in recent months, especially given the hawkish instincts of President Trump and his national security team. Chinese analysts nonetheless expect the US to enlist Beijing’s support on the North Korea issue and are anxiously waiting for Washington to engage so that China can bargain for its preferred outcomes. The prolonged silence from the administration is making Beijing increasingly uncertain and uncomfortable, and complicating its plans to reduce the threat that the United States and its network of alliances in Northeast Asia poses to Chinese security and strategic influence.

Between 2013 and 2016, China tested an alternative alignment strategy on the Korean peninsula. Frustrated with North Korea’s brinkmanship continuously damaging Chinese security interests, President Xi Jinping placed his hope on South Korean President Park Geun-hye to improve China’s strategic position. At the heart of this scheme was an effort to turn South Korea into China’s “pivotal” state in Northeast Asia, thereby undermining the US alliance system in the region and diminishing its threat to China. As a result of Sino-ROK rapprochement, senior-level visits soared, bilateral economic ties strengthened and many South Koreans questioned the utility and future of the US-ROK alliance. In an ideal scenario, China’s new realignment strategy would defeat the US-orchestrated “Northeast Asia NATO” based on America’s alliances with Japan and Korea, and counter the US-Japan alliance with an alignment between China and both Koreas. From the Chinese point of view, this would not only reduce China’s vulnerability vis-à-vis the US, but also lay a firm foundation for Chinese regional predominance.

However, events after the fourth North Korean nuclear test in January 2016 entirely derailed China’s scheme. Overestimating its presumed influence over Seoul, Beijing refused to adequately address South Korea’s legitimate security concerns, which eventually led to Seoul’s decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. China sees the THAAD deployment as a threat to strategic stability with the United States and an obstacle to its desired regional blueprint. As such, Chinese policy toward the Korean peninsula has evolved significantly in the last year, reflecting the realization that undermining the US-ROK alliance and turning South Korea into a Chinese strategic asset were both improbable in the near future and raising the prospect that Beijing might not have a choice between the two Koreas after all.

Nonetheless, while China’s ambitious efforts to transform geopolitical alignments on the Korean peninsula did not come to fruition, it still has two other key priorities. First, Beijing has not completely given up its efforts to defeat the THAAD deployment. At a minimum, it hopes that a victory for progressive forces in the upcoming South Korean presidential election, such as the Minjoo Party, could alter Seoul’s deployment plans for the system. While acknowledging that a complete reversal of the deployment decision is unlikely, Beijing hopes that a new South Korean government might delay the initial deployment or reduce the number of deployed units. China sees the propensity of the progressives to engage North Korea, to improve relations with China and to limit the scope of the US-ROK alliance as aligned with its overall strategic agenda. Although China’s ability to sway a South Korean domestic election is limited—for example, by maintaining the implicit sanctions China has imposed on South Korean companies, products and industries for the THAAD deployment—its preference and influence are expected to have an impact.

Second, China hopes to mitigate the impact that any future North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test might have on its strategic position and influence on the peninsula. The conventional wisdom is that North Korea will not want to conduct the test immediately after Trump’s inauguration, as it will almost certainly block the chance for dialogue with the new US administration and boost the popularity of the conservatives in the South Korean election. However, based on North Korea’s previous pattern of behavior, Chinese experts expect to see provocations in the coming months if Trump chooses to follow Obama’s policy of strategic patience. At the same time, Chinese analysts are inclined to downplay the significance of such an ICBM test, citing the immaturity of North Korea’s long-range missile technology and its likely failure. Still, Beijing will oppose any preemptive strike by the US on the launch site, although it does not fully believe that the US would take such a risky move and jeopardize South Korean security—a fundamental assumption embedded in China’s assessment of the prospects for conflict on the Korean peninsula.

Beijing has always insisted that North Korea’s nuclear development is motivated by Pyongyang’s vulnerability and insecurity, and argued that only the US and North Korea can resolve the stalemate through a peace negotiation. Selfless as it may sound, there is a certain level of hypocrisy in that position. As it has become clear to American officials and experts that strategic patience failed to address the North Korean nuclear threat, there have been more vocal calls to resume US-DPRK dialogue in return for a decision by Pyongyang to suspend its nuclear and missile tests. For China, the danger lies in the unpredictable consequences of such a bilateral negotiation. If the United States and North Korea decide to move ahead with a deal, the improvement of relations between them and the shifting balance of power on the Korean peninsula will diminish what China perceives as its leverage and strategic influence. Therefore, if the Trump administration unilaterally initiates bilateral talks with North Korea, it will be met with suspicion rather than enthusiasm from Beijing.

China’s potential reaction to a North Korean ICBM test all comes down to one question: What does Beijing want? One thing is clear: China wishes to see denuclearization and peace dialogues, but also wants to be an indispensable party in these dialogues to monitor and influence their direction. Beijing believes that the “dual-track” approach (parallel negotiations on denuclearization and a peace treaty) it proposed in 2016 offers the best hopes for achieving its strategic and security goals. Although the Obama administration largely rejected this approach, Beijing sees a new opportunity to try it again with the Trump administration. Trump should understand, however, that China’s position on the Korean peninsula is neither objective nor neutral and that it will view all solutions primarily through the lens of its strategic competition with the United States. As a result, it is important for all the concerned parties to have realistic expectations about a grand bargain with China over North Korea and treat it with extreme caution.

The US-China relationship under Trump is undoubtedly the largest uncertainty in China’s relations with both North and South Korea. If the Trump administration, as appears to be the case, chooses a more confrontational approach towards China, soliciting Beijing’s support and assistance in pressuring North Korea will be exceedingly difficult. A more hawkish stance from the United States will make Beijing instinctively seek more policy leverage, and provocative North Korea behavior that goes unpunished militarily by the United States offers tremendous opportunities for Beijing to be wooed by Americans to rein in Pyongyang. Past experience, including the Cheonan incident, the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island and South Korea’s THAAD deployment, have demonstrated the high level of leniency Beijing will afford Pyongyang when the United States applies greater pressure on China in response to such provocations.

The application of US secondary sanctions on China, which some American officials and experts have discussed, is likely to make China less rather than more cooperative on North Korea. It is unlikely that effective sanctions could be imposed on these entities without poisoning bilateral relations and adversely affecting China’s willingness to cooperate with the US on North Korea. China opposes unilateral sanctions as a general principle, and in particular condemns those that affect Chinese companies or interests. Beijing’s cooperation on the Iran nuclear deal was not incentivized by US sanctions on the Chinese Bank of Kunlun and Zhuhai Zhenrong, but by the opportunities offered for expanding Chinese influence in the Middle East and leveraging its cooperation in overall relations with Washington. In the Chinese view, the North Korea nuclear program, unlike the Iranian case, is much more complicated and sensitive because it directly affects China’s national security, and therefore requires more comprehensive and political solutions.

If the Trump administration’s primary goal is to confront China and thwart Beijing’s regional ambitions, the most effective policy (and the worst nightmare for China) would be a unilateral improvement of relations with North Korea. Whether that is politically possible depends on how far the administration is willing to pursue diplomacy and negotiations to defuse the North Korean threat. On the contrary, pressuring China is unlikely to make it cooperate. Beijing wants a grand bargain over the future of the Korean peninsula conducive to China’s interests. Without a proper endgame to incentivize the Chinese and a policy of dialogue that allows Beijing a key seat at the table, neither pressure nor solicitation will succeed.