Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The China card 

Notwithstanding earlier reports that China was not willing to twist North Korea's parts arm to bring it to the table, Hu Jintao met with North Korea's premier on Wednesday and offered to help restart nuclear talks. Since North Korea can't feed its people or make electricity or power its military without China, Hu Jintao has it within his means to make something happen here. Having dithered for months and blown off the last "six party" talks, why did Hu Jintao summon the North Koreans now? Because of Bush unilateralism!

Condaleeza Rice just went to China, and she was not easy on the Chinese. She went on about Taiwan, democracy, and other topics calculated to annoy her hosts.

Then, suddenly, it looks as if Europe may not resume the sale of advanced weapons to China as quickly as hoped in Beijing.

Now, suddenly, China is playing ball in North Korea.

TigerHawk believes he smells a deal. We know that we cannot stop the Europeans from selling arms to China forever, but we can slow down the lifting of the embargo. Looked at this way, the European arms embargo card is an American strategic asset, but a wasting asset. Condi may have played the embargo card in Beijing, and offered a deal: Get North Korea back to the table, or wait another couple of years (or to the end of the Bush Administration) to get the European arms embargo lifted.

If the NoKos start negotiating and the Europeans start selling arms to China, you read it here first!

UPDATE: JunkYardBlog took a shot at this post for having failed to identify China's anti-Taiwan secession law as the cause of Europe's waffling on lifting the arms embargo. My own opinion is that the Europeans do not care about Taiwan and think our security guarantee of the island is destabilizing. However, the law gives Europe a pretext for backing away from arms sales to China -- in effect, the Europeans now have a face-saving way to throw us this bone. I wrote more on this subject this (Thursday) morning.

There has also been some discussion in the comments section about whether it would be a "good deal" to trade the lifting of the European arms embargo for pressure on the Norks. That is not what I hypothesized, and it is a false choice. My point is that the European embargo is inevitably going to be lifted sooner or later, but in any event within the next year or two. That means that the best we can do is convince the Europeans to give us a card to play in the form of a delay, which is what they did. My hypothesis, and it is only a hypothesis, is that we signalled to China that we would reduce the pressure on Europe over the embargo if China got the Norks in line. If I'm right, we used a wasting asset to strengthen the Chinese commitment to reign in Pyongyang. I think that's smart diplomacy.


By Anonymous Colin Grabow, at Wed Mar 23, 10:39:00 AM:

Color me unimpressed.


"On China-DPRK ties, Wen and Pak both vowed to further the countries' 'friendly cooperative ties,' including economic cooperation and coordination on major issues, during talks here onTuesday.

"Relations between China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) have seen 'sound progress' with the direct care from the two countries' leaders, Wen told Pak in the Great Hall ofthe People in Beijing."

Seems to me that China is bribing the Norks back to the negotiating table through economic aid. And once back at the negotiating table absolutely nothing will be accomplished -- but everyone can say that Pyongyang is at least negotiating so there is no basis for imposing sanctions.

For a good analysis of China's role in the nuclear talks read this:


By Anonymous Colin Grabow, at Wed Mar 23, 10:40:00 AM:

Bad link at the bottom there: http://www.heritage.org/Research/AsiaandthePacific/bg1832.cfm  

By Anonymous Colin Grabow, at Wed Mar 23, 10:42:00 AM:

OK I give up. Just go to Heritage.org's Asia page and click on "Does Beijing Approve of North Korea's Nuclear Ambitions?" by John J. Tkacik, Jr.  

By Anonymous Scott, at Wed Mar 23, 11:44:00 AM:

Score another one for the Pajamahadeen.  

By Blogger Sammler, at Wed Mar 23, 11:58:00 AM:

I sincerely hope that Miss Rice is not so stupid as to offer the Chinese something as tangible as access to European weapons, in return for something as ethereal as "getting North Korea back to the table."  

By Blogger Mercury, at Wed Mar 23, 12:03:00 PM:

A deal you described, Euro weapons and technology and we get face to faces with the North Koreans, is terrible for the US. The same Norks who cut deals with Clinton only to cheat like a true fanatic as the ink dried on the agreements? The Norks are expert at exasperation during negoations and the Americans are 100% familiar with their delay tactics. America would be foolish to trade lethal hardware in the here and now for endless Nork BS.  

By Anonymous Jeff, at Wed Mar 23, 12:13:00 PM:

If getting North Korea back to the table is the best Condi could arrange, I must say it's a pretty poor deal. China has the ability to shut down North Korea and getting China to take the measures which will bring about that outcome is the ultimate goal. Anything else is nice, but in the end inconsequential.

I understand that getting something is better than nothing, given the inevitableness of the EU lifting the embargo, but still, I'm afraid there is nothing to brag about on this one.  

By Blogger Hope, at Wed Mar 23, 12:25:00 PM:

There is a speculation that the Europeans do not want to sell weapons to China, and the move is a feint to get the US open up our arms market to Europe.

Selling weapons to China my irritate the US to no end, however can the Europeans incur the wrath of the Japanese, Indians, Australians, South Koreans, Singaporese, and Taiwanese? wouldn't the ensuing trade battle lose more revenue than the arms sales? Considering the dollars current value, and the excess of dollars these nations carry in their banks. Europe may believe it can blackmail a huge win; Asian countries using their trade surplus with Europe to buy Euro's and selling more EuroArms to the US.

While Bush was touring in Europe, Condi was touring in Asia. Mutual Defense promises were exchanged with all of the main powers ndia, Australia, Japan, South Korea. Arms sales to China are inherently unpopular in Europe, the only thing making this deal attractive is the concept of pissing off the Americans. I suspect that a direct campaign from a few of the Asian powers to European people could render to idea so unpopular as to prevent its implementation.

As for trading access to Euroweapons for "bringing North Korea back to the table". We trade something huge for nothing. In such a Scenario the DPRK abandoning its nuclear arms would mean China losing a bargaining chip, under this scenario the Chinese would gain nothing by helping us and everything by screwing us.

Great idea though, if there ever is the second equivalent of the Carter Administration, Im sure there is a position in there for whomever dreamed this up. :-)  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Wed Mar 23, 12:57:00 PM:

If we could actually prevent the Europeans from lifting their arms embargo, I would agree that it is a bad deal. However, I think that the forces in Europe that is going to lift the embargo soon. Perhaps not this year, but soon, unless China does something really stupid. That is what I meant when I said that our ability to influence the European embargo is a "wasting asset." Since this card, if you will, is going away sometime soon, we might as well get something for it. I stand by my guess -- and it is a guess -- that we are getting leverage from over the Norks (a better term than "NoKos," by the way, so I am going to use it henceforth).

I should add that I think our guarantee of Taiwan's security is also untenable in the long term. A remilitarized Japan might be able back that guarantee, much the way the British backed up the Monroe Doctrine, but I don't see how we will be able to sustain it credibly over the next couple of decades in the absence of significant support from other players in the Western Pacific. That's another post, though.  

By Blogger _Jon, at Wed Mar 23, 02:41:00 PM:

Umm, what about the possibility that she offered to sell some non-high tech stuff to China?

They do have most favored nation status.
We have seen the Repub's go from "small government, responsible spending" to "monster government, spend the day away".
Is it much of a stretch to think they might setup a deal for non-"highest"-tech weapons directly?

We would certainly benefit from the monies, and would be screwing the Euro's in the process.

But the idea of the Asian manufacturers "boycotting" in essance, Europe as a penalty for supporting China is an intriguing one. That's for sure.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Wed Mar 23, 04:18:00 PM:

I came back from lunch and realized that my last comment was totally incoherent on account of screwed up editing. Sorry.

I doubt that Asian countries, other than perhaps Japan, have the leverage with Europe to overwhelm the ambition of its arms manufacturers. Most of Europe is too desperate for employment in any industry. The Japanese have some clout to add, but all the other countries in the region are just little gnats. The Japanese are probably not delighted that the Euros will be selling advanced arms to China, but they are even less delighted by the nuclear Norks. If my guess at a deal with China is on target, then I would also guess that Japan would support it.  

By Blogger Mrs. Davis, at Wed Mar 23, 05:38:00 PM:

The deal of arms embargo for return to the table is a bad one. But lifting arms embargo if and when Norks make a deal we accept, or you turn the lights out and clean up the mess is OK with me.  

By Anonymous Scott Gearity, at Thu Mar 24, 01:36:00 PM:

Jon, they actually renamed most favored nation (MFN) status several years ago because it actually means almost the precise opposite of what that designation implied. It's now called "normal trade relations" which is a lot more accurate since it signifies that it's no big deal and carries no real special privileges.

In any event, I think it's extremely unlikely that the US will relax its arms embargo on China in any way.  

By Anonymous Mike, at Sat Mar 26, 12:28:00 PM:

Very Interesting Article...  

By Blogger Eric, at Sun Mar 27, 02:08:00 AM:

If you look at the historic relations between China and the US, the current situation with an increasingly defiant N. Korea becomes very transparent.

The US support of Taiwan has always been a thorn of shame and defeat festering in China's national pride. To this day the independence of Taiwan is balanced solely on the American desire to stem the growth of communism. Similarly, the Korean offensive that was initiated by US forces in the 1950's was halted only by China's participation on behalf of N. Korea. N. Korea doesn't pass gas without asking China's permission first.

Eastern Asia has always been involved in this tit-for-tat relationship with the west that can not be dissolved by european arms negotiations or disarmarment conferences presided over by 2 or even 6 nations.

N. Korea has always been China's puppet thumbing its nose at the US, and likewise Taiwan has had the same effect. The recent laws passed by the Chinese government concerning Taiwan's autonomy are a direct response to the US's unilateral and global offensive on 'terrorist' and 'rogue' states.  

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