On July 5, 2017, ASPI President Kevin Rudd spoke on “The Brian Kilmeade Show” on Fox News Radio about North Korea’s first successful intercontinental ballistic missile test and its impact on political relationships in the Asia-Pacific region.
Rudd attributed the disconnect between President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinpingto China’s suspicion that the United States is not serious about “an American unilateral military strike against North Korea to either degrade or destroy its nuclear program,” as well as a misunderstanding on the U.S. side about China’s perspective on North Korea. While China recognizes Pyongyang’s nuclear program as a problem, it “still places a higher priority on [its] political and strategic relationship” with North Korea, Rudd stated.
However, Rudd listed three occurrences in the past week that might signal to China that America’s approach to China vis-à-vis North Korea is “changing” or “hardening.” The first, President Trump’s tweet on Wednesday pointing to growing trade between China and North Korea and suggesting that the current approach is clearly not working. The second, “U.S. Naval deployments in the South China Sea,” and the third, the $1.4 billion arms sale by the U.S. to Taiwan.
With North Korea’s provocative launch occurring during Independence Day weekend in the United States and as Xi and Russia’s Vladimir Putin met in Moscow, Rudd warned that there is now “a radical change in temperature” in the region. (7 min., 3 sec.)
(RUDD) The core thing is this, to understand why it is our friends in China acting away in which they are acting. Let’s go to trying to look at the world through their eyes. First of all they recognize a North Korean nuclear program is a problem, why, because if it destabilizes the nuclear if destabilizes the Korean Peninsula or at least a crisis conflict or even war that’s very bad for business is very bad for the regional economy and it’s very bad for China’s economy but on the other hand it’s this China it sees itself as a traditional ally of North Korea and despite the economic interests are just referred to it still places a higher priority on that political and strategic relationship so how does America change china’s calculus? I believe the way in which America changes China’s calculus is to cause China to conclude that American military options for dealing with the North Korean nuclear program are real and are not just a bluff. That I believe would cause China to act more decisively and putting leverage on the North Koreans to change their position.
(Kilmeade) How do we do that Kevin? As former Prime Minister of Australia, you know what’s a bluff and you know whats real and you know the region, how do we let them know that President Trump is for real?
(RUDD) Well the bottom line is this is the possibility of using a American unilateral military strike against North Korea to either degrade or destroy its nuclear program has been on the table technically for previous administrations going right back to Bill Clinton, George Bush, Barack Obama and this president as well. But here is the bottom line, the Chinese at the end of the day have not believed it, why, because they believe that America would be deterred from ever using it because our South Korean allies would object to it because an attack on North Korean nuclear facilities in South Korea’s judgment and they will be right, would result in immediate retaliatory attack by the North against Seoul, a city of ten million people, the capital of South Korea and welcome then to a second Korean war. Now that is the Chinese strategic calculus ,your question to me is how is that changed, I think it’s changed by a series of steps and if I look for example at President Trumps much criticized tweets, I look at the one that came out this morning on Wednesday and I quote it, “trade between china and north Korea grew almost forty percent in the first quarter so much for China working with us but we had to give it a try” that will be lit read I think pretty loud and pretty clear in Beijing and so we should be watching carefully what happens in the President Trump, Xi Jinping meeting in Germany at the G-20 meeting in the next few days.
(Kilmeade) What a great point Mr. Prime Minister. I also would say do you think it sent a message that we sent a destroyer right by the man made miliirized island In China much to their chagrin yesterday?
(RUDD) There is about 3 things that have happened in the last week from the Trump administration which will cause Trump to focus acutely on changing American positions, on hardening American positions. One is the statement I just refered to from President Trump and it backs up an earlier statement he made about 3 weeks ago thanking China for its efforts but basically saying it hadn’t worked. The second one is what you referred to is U.S. Naval deployments in the South China Sea but the third one, which has really focused Chinese attention as well, is the 1.4 billion dollar arms sale by the United States to Taiwan. All this occurring in the context of the North Korean issue is getting right to the top of the agenda and this provocative attack, for God’s sake on the 4th of July, not just from an American perspective but Xi Jinping and Putin are on that very day meeting in Moscow as they all head toward the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, its provocative at multiple levels.
(Kilmeade) Wow I’ve never so somewhere to heard someone so clearly and concisely break everything down and draw a line between them. I looked at them too much as an isolated occurrence but you say they’re all connected.
(RUDD) Well, I believe the most critical thing is that they may have their own separate logic’s but when they perceive from Beijing they will see this radical change in temperature from the 3 months that we had starting at the Mar-a-Lago summit back in April. Lets reflect back on that, that was given 100 days to work to see if we cold find a diplomatic solution.