Experts: U.S. Needs to Exert ‘Leverage’ Over China to Tame North Korea

Beijing won't act forcefully against Pyongyang without facing serious economic consequences

by Kathryn Blackhurst | Updated 09 Aug 2017 at 2:03 PM

If the U.S. hopes to neutralize or eliminate the threat from North Korea’s escalating nuclear capabilities and bellicose positioning, President Donald Trump’s administration must ramp up the pressure on China, a trio of commentators and experts said Wednesday on “The Laura Ingraham Show.”

Trump issued a stern warning to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un Tuesday that further aggression would “be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Pyongyang retaliated by declaring that it was mulling over whether or not to launch a missile strike on Guam, a U.S. territory.

Noting that the North Koreans "will be able to put a nuclear weapon on top of a long-range missile" and strike "the American homeland" within a year, China expert and columnist Gordon Chang said that Trump's Tuesday threat against North Korea served a twofold purpose.

"What President Trump tried to do yesterday with that rhetoric of 'fire and fury,' I think, is not only talk to the North Koreans and try to establish some deterrence, but more important, I think he was talking to Beijing," said Chang. "What he was trying to do was to tell the Chinese that they have to stop their duplicitous game that they've been engaged in now for a couple decades and actually start to help the United States."

Chang, a Daily Beast columnist and author of the book "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On The World," said he believes the Trump administration "has worked very hard with Beijing in a number of different ways that we can see — some out front and some behind the scenes. But this is going to be where the battle is going to be waged. And the Trump administration is determined not to lose this one."

Conservative political commentator Pat Buchanan said Trump needs Chinese President Xi Jinping's help to quell the threat North Korea poses because of China's economic and trading relationship with the rogue nation. But China "is playing a game here," he said, and doesn't wish to throw all its force behind neutralizing North Korea.

"China does have the ability basically to strangle North Korea to death, in terms of oil and in terms of not buying its coal and its exports, and secondly in terms of not allowing imports or exports to go into North Korea," Buchanan said, adding that such actions "would really imperil" North Korea's ambitions and its future.

A former senior adviser to President Reagan, Buchanan told Ingraham that he doesn't believe China wants to "squeeze North Korea to death," adding that the Chinese "would like the current situation to continue on with the U.S. distracted and problems here in the U.S."

"The Chinese have got to ask themselves, do they really want something like that to occur right next door to them and have the Korean peninsula just on fire and millions and billions of refugees and the whole world divided between China and the United States?" Buchanan said. "[China] realized they've got a problem child on their hands with nuclear weapons."

Chang warned that the increasing global tensions "could very well end up in the world's first nuclear weapons exchange between the United States and North Korea. But it could also be China and North Korea on one side of that exchange and the United States on the other. And that's what makes this exceedingly dangerous, because the Chinese have been weaponizing the North Koreans."

"We need to start asking Beijing some pointed questions — and not only behind the scenes, but also in public because the American public needs to hear this," he added, noting that the U.S. has "the leverage" necessary to persuade China to tame North Korea. But this leverage, Chang said, isn't being used.

"We hold most of the high cards. For instance, we know that Chinese banks, including the largest ones, have been money laundering for the North Koreans — including Bank of China, which was named in a 2016 U.S. report. We could put Bank of China out of business. That's enormous leverage," he said.

"Now as has been reported, the Trump administration is not pursuing Treasury sanctions against Bank of China and other financial institutions because we're trying to get cooperation from China," Chang continued. "Now, this is a tactic that we have used for two decades. It hasn't worked up to now. I would like to see a more proactive approach."

The U.S. also can utilize the leverage it has to pressure China by pursuing property theft charges against the country, as well as renegotiating its approach to trading with China and leveling the playing field.

"We do not have an economy that is geared to selling things to China. China, on the other hand, has an economy geared to selling things to us. And we have a stable economy. China's not stable because they're heading to a debt crisis," Chang said. "So when you look at the balance of power, the United States still holds it. And as President Trump said today in his two-part tweet, there's never going to be a time when the U.S. is not the world's most powerful nation."

Trump took to Twitter Wednesday to comment further on the escalating North Korea situation, saying, "My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before ... Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!"

Victor Davis Hanson, a military historian and political columnist, said that China is "playing a game of chicken" with the U.S. over North Korea.

"It's how long is this in the cost-benefit analysis helping China?" Hanson told Ingraham, noting that the U.S. has "to change the odds" and make the price "too high to pay" for China. "And we haven't upped the ante yet."

Hanson, a Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and professor of classics emeritus at California State University, Fresno, said China feels that it receives "a lot of benefit" from allowing North Korea to antagonize the U.S. and distract it from other international issues. And the U.S. has fallen right into China's trap, he warned.

Said Hanson: "[The Chinese] have some problems, though that we're not exploiting. They have a really angry India at them over border disputes. And I don't know why we alienated Russia to the extent that we couldn't have used them to triangulate against China. We've got a nuclear card with Japan and South Korea, so they're in a really rough neighborhood with a lot of people around them that are nuclear and powerful or could be nuclear and powerful, both. And they don't like China."

In particular, Hanson noted that the mainstream media and Democrats' obsession with blaming Russian election interference for Trump's Election Day victory in 2016 hasn't helped the North Korea situation by any stretch of the imagination.

"That point is never made by the hysterical Left, that in their zeal to redeem themselves or find some explanation for the inexplicable loss, they really alienated and demonized Russia to such a degree that it's not useful anymore in a way that it could have been in this crisis," he said. "They're really culpable for that. And we've got to find ways to pressure China, as we've said."

Ultimately, Buchanan said that the crisis all boils down to whether or not the U.S. "is going to tolerate and live with the ability of the North Koreans to deliver a nuclear weapon on American territory — not just American territory like Guam, but the American homeland."

"And [U.S. National Security Adviser H.R.] McMaster says Trump will not tolerate that, that it is utterly unacceptable. But I think North Korea has decided this, Laura — that the only way they can guarantee the Americans don't attack them and bring down their regime is if they have a nuclear deterrent," he said. "And so they're determined to build this deterrent and I don't think, absent of military action, we're going to be able to prevent them from doing so."

(photo credit, homepage and article images: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)

  1. china
  2. China-US relations
  3. Donald Trump
  4. Kim Jong Un
  5. north korea
  6. Nuclear Weapons
  7. Pat Buchanan
  8. The Laura Ingraham Show
  9. Trade with China
  10. Xi Jinping
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