China Expert: Trump’s Been ‘More Successful Than Previous Presidents’

Dr. Michael Pillsbury says POTUS' 'sophisticated strategy' in dealing with Beijing represents a shift

by Kathryn Blackhurst | Updated 01 Aug 2017 at 9:35 AM

A top defense expert in the Reagan administration says that President Donald Trump’s efforts to persuade China to exert economic pressure on North Korea “so far have been more successful than previous presidents'” efforts.

Dr. Michael Pillsbury, an assistant undersecretary of defense for policy planning under former President Ronald Reagan and now the director of the Center on Chinese Strategy at the Hudson Institute, made the comments during an interview Monday on “The Laura Ingraham Show.”

Pillsbury was responding to Trump’s two Saturday tweets in which the president expressed his frustration over China’s inadequate efforts thus far to deter North Korea. The president issued the tweets after North Korea announced that it had conducted the test of another successful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Saturday that could reach the U.S. mainland.

"I am very disappointed in China," the president had tweeted. "Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet ... they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!"

Pillsbury, who wrote the book, "The Hundred-Year Marathon: China's Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower," told LifeZette Editor-in-Chief Laura Ingraham that he believes Trump has been executing a "sophisticated strategy" when it comes to China and North Korea that has evolved since Trump entertained Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago in April.

"President Trump's efforts so far have been more successful than [those of] previous presidents'," he said. "In other words, he's laid out a plan that he praised how much he liked President Xi using words like 'chemistry' and 'bonding,' 'my friend.' And then he laid out this goal that China has to help us, otherwise we'll solve it ourselves. Then he started in the last few days another approach that he's 'disappointed' in China, that ... our previous 'foolish leaders' got us into this situation. And now we're going to solve it ourselves if we have to."

"So this is quite a sophisticated strategy, even though some people look down their noses because it's coming out by tweet," Pillsbury continued. "And what [Trump's] obviously doing is he's aware the Chinese may try to finesse him and say they'll help, but then not, which has been the case in the past, or just take little steps like not buying coal, but in fact keeping their billions of dollars in trade and their pipeline that's the main source of oil for North Korea, keeping it going."

Saying that Trump is "maneuvering" the Chinese "into kind of a corner" through his efforts, he noted, "what I see here is something that's new and different from George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — certainly from [Barack] Obama."

Following North Korea's latest successful missile test and Trump's expression of "disappointment" in how China has failed to exert its own economic pressure on the rogue nation, China's foreign ministry sent a statement to Reuters protesting that "all parties should have a correct understanding of this."

Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Qian Keming said during a news conference that it was wrong to link trade issues to North Korea's escalating threat.

"We think the North Korea nuclear issue and China-U.S. trade are issues that are in two completely different domains. They aren't related. They should not be discussed together," Qian said.

But Pillsbury argued that China's economic enabling of North Korea and its unfair trading relationship with the U.S. are all connected, saying that Trump's next step should be "to talk more harshly about trade measures." He also suggested that Trump should float the idea of imposing "so-called super-sanctions" on Chinese businesses and banks that have been reported to be "wrapped up with North Korea in various ways."

Trump also will most likely consider what kinds of pressure the U.S. can further apply to North Korea to deter its nuclear ambitions.

"Usually the last four presidents have all been willing to say everything's on the table. But at the same time, they let their friends say, 'Well, millions would die if we use force of any kind,'" Pillsbury said. "But I think what you're starting to see now is more discussion of the various types of use of force, which may or may not work, but will certainly get the attention of the North Korean regime."

Noting that Trump is planning to visit China in November, he predicted that Trump won't exert such "force" before then.

"But that trip in November might be the last chance for the Chinese to really put serious pressure on North Korea to give up the nuclear missile program," Pillsbury said.

For his own part, Trump told reporters during his second full Cabinet meeting Monday, "We will handle North Korea. We are gonna be able to handle them. It will be handled. We handle everything."

Vice President Mike Pence told reporters while traveling in Estonia on Sunday that "the continued provocations by the rogue regime in North Korea are unacceptable, and the United States of America is going to continue to marshal the support of nations across the region and across the world to further isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically."

"We believe China should do more," Pence added.

Trump also spoke on the phone with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday about the continued escalation of the threat North Korea poses.

"The two leaders agreed that North Korea poses a grave and growing direct threat to the United States, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and other countries near and far," the White House's statement read. "President Trump and Prime Minister Abe committed to increasing economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea, and to convincing other countries to follow suit. President Trump reaffirmed our ironclad commitment to defend Japan and the Republic of Korea from any attack, using the full range of United States capabilities."

  1. Ballistic Missiles
  2. china
  3. China-US relations
  4. Donald Trump
  5. ICBM
  6. Missile Tests
  7. north korea
  8. The Laura Ingraham Show
  9. Trade with China
  10. Xi Jinping
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