President Trump, in recent weeks, has expressed a great deal of optimism about the U.S.’s relationship with China. Following the Mar-a-Lago summit between himself and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump has said repeatedly that he believes the Communist government will work with his administration to reduce the growing nuclear threat in North Korea. In the meantime, he says, he will not attack China on trade and currency manipulation in the same way he did during the campaign. After all, as he said on Twitter, how would that serve America’s national security interests?
Still, it would be a mistake to assume that China will take sides with the U.S. against North Korea, no matter what kind of carrot Trump waves in their face. China wants only one thing, and that is to dominate the Pacific and slowly but surely steal America’s role as the one true global superpower. If they can use this North Korean situation to further that goal, they will. That may solve our impending crisis in the short-term, but at what cost to our long-term national security?
This is not to say that President Trump is making a mistake by working with China on this issue; at the moment, he hardly has any other reasonable option short of a preemptive strike against Pyongyang. The ramifications of an invasion are too unpredictable to even guess at. One false move could send Kim into a panic, at which time he could easily launch a counter-attack on the U.S., South Korea, or any other target of his choosing. It would mean the self-destruction of his crumbling regime, but untold innocent lives could go down with the madman.
On the other hand, we have to accept and acknowledge the truth, which is that Kim’s wild threats are not at odds with China’s interests. Quite the contrary; the Chi-Coms, as Rush calls them, are perfectly happy to watch the United States beg them for help while they, in the meantime, hand North Korea most of what they need to survive. If China cut off the spigot tomorrow, Kim Jong Un would be on his hands and knees, begging for a reprieve. But China doesn’t want to do that because China isn’t particularly concerned about Kim’s nuclear arsenal. They would rather have him conducting nuclear tests than to have the U.S. allied with a unified Korean peninsula. To them, THAT is the threat. Everything up to that is just a negotiation lever.
Thankfully, recent military exercises in South Korea and Japan and recent comments from Trump and Vice President Mike Pence demonstrate that this administration is not fooled by President Xi’s gladhanding. Diplomatic pressure must be accompanied by a clear willingness to act in the face of North Korean aggression, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks. If Trump can balance the two, he could broker the deal of a century and earn a lasting place in the history books.