By Robert Farley—Commentary by Douglas Macgregor
The sand islands in the SCS and Senkaku/Daiyou island in the ECS are militarily irrelevant. We know from WikiLeak sources that the Obama State Department was actually very irritated with the Japanese who deliberately initiated this “Island Crisis” in both locations.
We also know from publicly available Japanese documents that the Chinese and Japanese in the 1970s both agreed to shelve this issue indefinitely. The Chinese can’t nor are they willing to invade the SE Asian countries. It’s beyond the limits of their resources and military capabilities. The only country China has ever threatened to invade is Taiwan and this is based on Taiwan’s use as Japan’s unsinkable aircraft carrier and staging base from 1937 to 1945. However, China knows that directly attacking Taiwan will result in conflict with Japan. Japan treats Taiwan’s independence from China as a vital strategic interest. Thus, why would the Chinese risk war with Japan when doing so could involve the United States as well? Bottom Line: As long as Taiwan is not used as a launching point for attack on and invasion of China, Beijing will register their discontent, but otherwise leave Taiwan alone.
Trade with China should continue, however, as President Elect Trump argues, the uneven trade regime must change for the sake of American workers. Americans are unaware that President Clinton set the terms of trade with China as part of the globalization strategy. These favorable terms were based on the false assumption that trade with China would undermine the Chinese Communist Government and produce democratic reform. Instead, our trade with China simply made China wealthy and strengthened the Communist Party’s legitimacy to rule. It was yet another monumental misunderstanding and miscalculation by US and Western globalizationists. President-elect Trump can change these terms because large American companies are already leaving China for India and SE Asia. These moves are likely to disappoint, but the urgency associated with leaving China is the suffocating corruption and government demands inside China for greater profit sharing. It’s also part of the relentless search for cheap labor. In the end, President-elect Trump’s determination to end the American Left’s policies of punishing US industries will do more to return industry to the US than any new, negotiated trade deal with Beijing.
When it comes to North Korea, any U.S. and ROK attack on North Korea will produce forgiveness in Beijing for all of North Korea’s ridiculous and dangerous behavior. The outcome for Pyong Yang would be Beijing’s readiness to support North Korea. In truth, our strategic interests and those of our allies in the region would be better served by the unilateral withdrawal of US ground forces from both the Korean Peninsula and Okinawa. This would send an unambiguous signal to Beijing that we are totally disinterested in attacking China and facilitate an agreement worked out by the three parties with the greatest interest in North Korea: Japan, the ROK and China.
In this connection, Washington’s efforts to cultivate India as a strategic partner are wasted. India is Russia’s strategic partner, not America’s. In addition, India is not a nation; it’s a collection of very diverse states and peoples that coexist inside the construct called India. With few exceptions, India’s population, unlike China’s, lives under conditions of unimaginable poverty. Changing these conditions will likely require a century or more of development. Wise policymakers realized this truth decades ago and have adjusted their expectations of India’s role in the international system and global economy accordingly.
These points notwithstanding, a stable Pakistan is in Western interest. No one in Washington wants Pakistan and its nuclear weapons to fall into the hands of Islamist extremists. Pakistan’s harsh regime is an unavoidable necessity given the character of Pakistan’s society. We should accept this reality and move on to more productive topics for discussion with Islamabad.
Finally, no country in the SCS, or for that matter in East Asia, wants to obstruct US access to Asia’s markets and resources. None of Asia’s nations including China wants to lose access to US markets. For that reason our dealings with Asia should be economically focused. Thus, U.S. military action in the SCS or NE Asia is necessary. In fact, it would be strategically self-defeating and misguided.
December 25, 2016