China's fingerprints on summit's cancellation, so US must push back

China's fingerprints on summit's cancellation, so US must push back
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The mask is off.  That is, it is for those willing to confront the true face of Communist China (even the use of that antiquated but accurate Cold War name still grates on many).

Beijing’s blatant sabotaging of the promising dialogue between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un puts the lie to the decades-old Chinese and Western triple myths that (a) Beijing shares the world’s concerns about North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, (b) its power to do anything about them is quite limited, and (c) it will nonetheless make good-faith efforts to push Pyongyang toward denuclearization.

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The uncomfortable reality always was that China originally helped Pyongyang get the programs started even as it pressured Washington to remove its tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea in the early 1990s to ensure a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

 

In the following three decades, Beijing, with Moscow, did all they could to enable the programs to continue by protecting successive Kim regimes from United Nations-imposed and other economic sanctions intended to pressure them away from that dangerous course.

China always postured as if it cared about the emerging North Korean nuclear and missile threats and would do its best to curb them. Credulous Western governments and foreign policy experts were all too willing to give Beijing the benefit of the doubt and to accept its professions of good intentions.

Worse, to encourage China in this supposed partnership role, Washington and its allies gave it a pass on a range of issues where Beijing itself was transgressing international norms: on currency manipulation, trade restrictions, intellectual property theft, cyber attacks, Taiwan, navigational freedoms and territorial claims in the South and East China Seas, and human rights. Western governments were reluctant to hold China seriously to account in any of these areas because its help was deemed indispensable to resolving the overriding North Korea problem.

It was the ultimate win-win for China: facilitate and foster a growing threat and monumental distraction for the West — then collect praise, prestige and indulgence for not helping with North Korea and helping itself to ill-gotten gains in the other domains.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping just demonstrated China’s actual power over its junior communist ally.  While never seriously lifting a finger to get Pyongyang off the nuclear weapons train, Beijing suddenly snapped its fingers and twice summoned Kim to be instructed on how to handle the over-eager Americans — a technique perfected by Chinese leaders through successive U.S. administrations. President TrumpDonald John TrumpGillibrand urges opposition to Kavanaugh: Fight for abortion rights 'is now or never' Trump claims tariffs on foreign nations will rescue US steel industry: report Bannon announces pro-Trump movie, operation team ahead of midterms: report MORE and his national security team saw through the latest Beijing-Pyongyang ploy and called off the summit, at least for now.

Since China has not delivered on its commitment to help resolve the North Korea crisis, and has worked diligently instead to exacerbate it, the restraints on Western action have expired. It is time for Washington and its allies to confront China on the myriad ways it is subverting the international order:

  •  The sanctions for trade and intellectual property violations should proceed, without waivers for companies such as ZTE. Any Chinese retaliatory measures should be vigorously matched;
  • Freedom of Navigation Operations in the South China Sea, and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief exercises should be expanded and should include joint operations with allied and friendly nations, including Taiwan;
  • Regular and frequent U.S. Navy transits of the Taiwan Strait should commence with a passage by a carrier battle group;
  • Further mil-to-mil cooperation should be curtailed or cancelled;
  • Radio Free Asia and Voice of America should ensure that the dignified Chinese people are fully informed on things the Chinese Communist Party does at home and internationally in their name.

Since President Trump planned to be in the region anyway on June 12 for the Kim meeting, he could shift his destination from Singapore to Taipei, where the new American Institute in Taiwan office building will be dedicated on that date. While there, he should state unequivocally that the United States is committed to defend Taiwan against any Chinese aggression or coercion.  If the president’s schedule would not permit his personal attendance, he should dispatch Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceLewandowski says Bloomberg would be 'very competitive' against Trump in 2020 The Hill's Morning Report — GOP seeks to hold Trump’s gains in Midwest states Former Air Force secretary: Trump's proposed Space Force is a waste of resources MORE, the recent recipient of North Korean insults after stating clearly the consequences for failing to eliminate the nuclear threat.

If this menu of recommended actions strikes some as overly provocative, it is only because the West has been desensitized and unaccustomed to conducting international activities in a normal manner when China is involved. It is long past time for China to be treated by the rest of the world like the mature, accomplished, civilized nation it claims to be.

For those who would consider this program reminiscent of the Cold War, they should know that for China, that East-West confrontation never really ended. It simply was waged by the Chinese Communist Party in different, generally more muted forms, symbolized by Deng Xiaoping’s caution that China should “hide its capabilities, bide its time.”

Xi Jinping, with his neo-Maoist predilection, clearly feels that the hiding and biding have served their purpose in psychologically disarming the West. Now is the time for the People's Republic to flaunt its economic and military power and more frontally defy the international order.

The United States under the Trump administration is uniquely positioned to lead the international community in resisting the Chinese Communist government and its outlaw allies and accomplices such as the inhuman regime in Pyongyang.  History still calls on America to act.

Joseph Bosco served as China country director for the Secretary of Defense from 2005 to 2006 and as Asia-Pacific director of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief from 2009 to 2010.  He previously taught a graduate seminar in the Asian Studies Program at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. He is a nonresident fellow at the Institute for Corean-American Studies and the Institute for Taiwan-American Studies and has held nonresident appointments in the Asia-Pacific program at the Atlantic Council and the Southeast Asia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.