The ICAS Lectures


US-China Relations and the Dynamics of East Asia

David Shambaugh

ICAS Fall Symposium

October 25, 2016, 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
The Heritage Foundation Allison Auditorium
Washington, DC

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

Biographic sketch & Links: David Shambaugh

US-China Relations and the Dynamics of East Asia

David Shambaugh
Professor of Political Science, Director China Policy Program,
Elliot School International Affairs, George Washington University

October 25, 2016

David Shambaugh: Iím glad I know everybody came here to hear my friend and colleague Michael Green. Heís always good value. But I appreciate some of you sticking around for my part of the conference today. You have an excellent program. I want to congratulate the organizers and thank Dr. Kim for the invitation to speak to the ICAS Fall Symposium, my first time speaking to ICAS and my first time in the Heritage Foundation Building, I have to confess. But pleasure to be here in both cases.

My assigned title, assigned to me, was US China Relations and the Dynamics of East Asia, which is what you have in your program. But because the Symposium is focused on Korean Peninsula issues, when I was looking over the schedule a few days ago, I realized that my topic, US-China Relations and Dynamics of East Asia, was really an outlier to all the other topics. This seems to be a very Korea-focused conference. So I thought I would try and orient my remarks really more towards your interests with regard to Korea. So youíre not going to hear me speak about China and Southeast Asia and this and that. I am going to say a bit about Chinaís Asia strategy as I see it, and where Korea fits into that.

I think thatís the place to start. If youíre going to understand how the Chinese think about the Korean Peninsula, both North and South, one has to begin with an understanding how they think about the region broadly. So let me begin with a few observations about that and then move more specifically to how I understand, mind you I have no great insights. The ChineseÖ The Chinese Government, Iím not sure they want my insights, but at any rate, I am an American, I try and watch China. So what Iím going to put forward to you are my own views. Iím certainly not here to represent the Chinese government nor their perspective, but to try and unpack and understand a little about they come to thinking about the Korean peninsula. Itís not a subject China and Korea, which I have spent much of my professional career. In fact, I have published precisely one article out of 200+ on China and Korea. So itís not something I specialize in but I just wanted to be friendly to the organizers and prepare some remarks that would be of interest to those of you who follow the Korean peninsula more than I do.

Okay, so I think the starting place is indeed to try and get some sense of how the Chinese view their region and their role in their region. So, if there was a secret document in the [unintelligible] that elaborated how they view their regional strategy, what would the elements of that document be? There are my guesses. First, Iíd think we have to understand the Chinese bring some considerable historical perspective to bear on their perspectives today in the 21st century. That is to say the assumptions of what western scholars call the tribute system are operative, psychologically operative in Chinese thinking about their periphery. So, letís just remind ourselves, thatís not to say theyíre trying to recreate a 21st century version of the tribute system. There are some scholars out there such as David Kong of the University of Southern California whoís written a very good book and several articles. There are scholars who think thatís exactly what the Chinese are trying to do, which is replicate the pre-Qing dynasty tribute system. Iím not so sure about that myself, but I would submit to you that there are some assumptions that flow from their 3000+ years of history that are still operative in the way that they think about the periphery region today. So, letís just quickly remind ourselves how did that so-called tribute system operate? What were the key features of it?

First, it was hierarchical. And China was at the pinnacle of the hierarchy. And it was in essence a patron-client system. It was not a system of equality amongst the member states, nor was it a concert what today international relations scholars would call a concert of powers. It wasnít a concert of powers. It was a hierarchical hegemonic system. What type of hegemony? The answer, benevolent hegemony. Non-coercive hegemony. The Chinese did not rule their periphery through force. It was a non-coercive, as I say, kind of system, and it was essentially a peaceful system. The third element of it, it was a very, today I guess we put this in the soft power category, it was a very deferential and a very highly ritualistic system. That is to say that the peoples on the periphery of China, and remember most of this was in the pre-nation-state era, they paid deference to the middle kingdom, to the personification of the middle kingdom, namely the Emperor himself. And they were rewarded with benefits. But this is a very ritualistic system. They physically come to the capitol, bearing gifts of tribute Ė thatís why itís called the tribute system Ė for the emperor. They would kowtow. They would have to enter the country and approach Beijing in a North-South direction, and they kowtow, do the nine head knockings on the way. And then they would finally get to the Emperorís throne and tell him how much they loved Chinese culture. And the Emperor would say fine, we synoecize you. You come to China to be synoecized, to be taught the virtues of Chinese culture, ways of doing thing, everything from Chinese calendar to other modalities of interaction. So this is a very cultural kind of hegemony actually. And in return, these peoples on the periphery received both commercial benefit and today what we would call extended deterrence. So the Chinese would use force to protect their peripheral appendages you might call them when there were uprisings and rebellions and help was asked for. So they would go into Vietnam, they would go into Korea, they would go into Taiwan, and put down uprisings. So letís just remind ourselves. Thatís sort of in the DNA and in the kind of cognitive mindset of most Chinese when they think about their region today, as I say to them, Korea is a subset of that.

The second element of Chinaís broad regional strategy is to, what I call, pacify the periphery. So this is a country, you know where it is on the map, centrally located in Asia, borders 17 other countries, more than any nation on the planet. And this is a country that has had at least a couple thousand years of pressure on its borders, northern borders and eastern borders primarily. But also to some extent southern borders, where foreigners have encroached on Chinese territory and soil. So this is a nation today that is hyper sensitive about its borders, more than any other country I can think of, because of this history. First it was the nomadic peoples from the central Asian steppes that invaded, the Mongols as well. Then it was the European colonial powers who sailed up the eastern periphery with their gunboats. And according to Chinese, even Vietnamese encroached upon their southern periphery. So thisÖ We have to remember that border security is really paramount in the way the Chinese think about their national security. Of course you could say that about every country, but there is a much lower threshold for having foreigners on their periphery. That is very relevant to Korea today and indeed Koreaís future.

The third element, Iíd say in Chinese thinking about Asia is to promote dependence amongst countries of Asia on China. Not interdependence, dependence under the guise of interdependence, you might say. And todayís buzz word, they call this connectivity if you read the Chinese propaganda the last couple years, associated with the one belt, one road. Itís all about connectivity. Well connectivity is code word for "youíre dependent on us and we will use that leverage when necessary." Whether youíre Taiwan, whether youíre Vietnam, whether youíre Indonesia, whether youíre Seoul or others. Economics is the strongest tool in the Chinese tool box, and theyíre using it all the time. We saw it just a few days ago with Duterteís visit to Beijing. You are rewarded, just like the tribute system used to operate. You are rewarded for your fidelity and if you what Duterte said in Beijing and sort of plug it in to some Min and Qing Dynasty visits from the periphery to the Emperor, thereís not a lot different there.

Fourth element of Chinese regional strategy is to embed itself, but manipulate regional multilateral organizations. They were very ambivalent, the Chinese government, about joining the regional multilateral organizations in the 90s, when these began to spring up like bamboo shoots after rain on the proliferated throughout the 90s and into the 2000s. The Chinese were at first very ambivalent about participating in them. They were very suspicious of them. They saw them as American tools of containment and they didnít want anything to do with them. But then the Asian countries kept telling Beijing "no, no, no. These regional groupings are not tools of the Americans. We, Asia, will see to it. Just come along as observers. You donít even have to join. Just come and be an observer for a while. See how we operate. And then hopefully you will feel more comfortable about joining." Well thatís precisely what the Chinese did in 1996-7-8 and 9. Those four years are crucial if you look back. They sent observers and they found and lo and behold the Americans werenít even in the room, and that the agenda and the subject being discussed did not reflect Washingtonís priorities at all. They reflected Asian community building concepts. That resonated with the Chinese, frankly. They found a kind of consummate perspective with Asia. And it gave them a comfort level to join and so they joined and now theyíre in all of them. But as is frequently the case with China, once they embed themselves within an organization, maybe itís not just China, maybe itís big powers in general, they begin to become manipulative. And that is what weíve seen in several of these dialogue groupings. I have a Singaporean government colleague who has worked with and observed the Chinese in a number of these forums. He said at first the Chinese were very happy to sit in the back seat and Asian drive the car in East Asia. Then he said they moved into the front seat, they opened the glove box, pulled out the map. Now theyíre telling us how to drive and where to go. Itís just a matter of time before they take over the steering wheel altogether. Itís a metaphor, itís a kind of a joke, but this is from someone who has watched their behavior up close. So the Chinese are in all these multilateral organizations. Thatís good. You wouldnít want a regional multilateral organization without China in it. But thereís a price to pay once China is in.

Fifth element of their regional strategy, I would say, is to reduce or diminish any regional perceptions of a China threat. Well thatís a tough sell, particularly in Southeast Asia given Chinaís history during the 60s and the 70s and the South China Sea issue today and the Chinese military capacity thatís been building steadily. They are perceived in various places of the region to be at least a potential threat, if not a present threat. The Chinese try to counter that, this is the soft power, public diplomacy propaganda element of their regional strategy, with this barrage of propaganda and other exchange efforts, whether its military to military exchange, scholars to scholars, government to government, they are in the exchange business. But ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake. The exchange business for China is all about propaganda and trying to indoctrinate the party of the other side of the exchange with their views of whatever the subject happens to be. So they are very active in Asia as they are in other parts of the world. But towards what end? And as I say, itís kind of a PR/PD, public diplomacy, effort. Related to that, theyíre trying to build broader cultural linkages, really society to society, which is not necessarily so propagandistic, and particularly with the overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia. Everything from Confucius Institutes to other educational exchanges is other forms of soft power.

Last couple elements of their regional strategy I would put forward before we turn to Korea is, sixth I guess, is to probe and weaken US alliances and the US position in the region. That is not new news. Itís a very old perspective of theirs. They have been very uncomfortable with the American Hub and Spokes alliance system for a very long time. They began to say so openly, including their President, in 1997-98, Their Defense Minister and other senior Chinese went around the region, if you recall, calling for the abolition of all five American alliances in Asia, as well as worldwide. They were calling for the abolition of NATO, if you remember at that time. They got pushed back, actually. They got pushed back not just from the five American allies in Asia but from a number of non-allied states who said, "look, this security system has provided stability and security for the region as a whole, and even if weíre not an ally, countries like Malaysia, like Singapore, like Vietnam, said "we still benefit from this and we have no intention of breaking those alliances and we donít want our five neighbors to do so either." So the Chinese got pushed back in the late 90s from Southeast Asian countries in particular, and a little bit from Seoul, I must say, at that time. So they shut up in the wake of that. The Chinese leaders stopped calling openly and publicly for the abolition of American alliances in Asia. But they havenít changed their minds at all, ladies and gentlemen. They still are very uncomfortable, to put it mildly, with these alliances, and American military forward deployed forces. And they want both of them gone. Why? Because that is the major impediment to them dominating their region, the United States. We are in the way of where they want to go.

So the last element is bilaterally, what do they want to do with different countries in the region? Let just give you a series of quick snapshots. First, I want to isolate Japan, prop up North Korea, co-opt South Korea, divide Asia, emphasize central Asia, and expand its presence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean. If there were such a secret document where the Chinese lay down what their regional strategy is, I would suspect a number of those elements would be on it.

Letís transition then to the Korean peninsula. But I think all of that is actually important to bear in mind about, Chinaís approach to the Korean peninsula. Basically speaking, I think Chinaís overall approach to the Korean peninsula animates from the first of my points about the region. It has one overarching core premise/assumption/goal, namely that the Korean peninsula falls entirely within Chinaís strategic sphere of influence. It is to China what the Caribbean or Central America is to the United States, what the Baltics and Crimea are to Russia. This is more than the backyard. This is part of the front yard. This is the side yard, whatever the analogy would be. The Chinese assume, and there is a lot of historical reason to understand where they come to this assumption, because Korea was by far the most integrated and docile element of the tribute system on Chinaís periphery of any of the other states. So thatís their starting point. They should have thereforeÖ Itís unarticulated. They donít say it publicly. That is their natural sphere of influence. But I think thatís their core assumption, as it is their natural sphere of influence, they should have the preponderant, the decisive say about how things go on the Korean peninsula. They should have a so-called veto power, I guess is what political scientists would call it today. Now if they do have such a determining say, whatís their broader agenda? What are their specific goals? First, I think itís to weaken and minimize the ROKís political, strategic, and military ties to the United States. Thatís consummate with their broader perspective about the American military strategic alliance system in Asia. So the American alliance with the ROK forward deployed and all that is seen both in the regional context, but itís right on Chinaís doorstep and of course itís for China a legacy of the Korean War, which we have to remind ourselves, China entered because of its sensitivity about borders, I would argue. Hypersensitivity about border encroachment, not to mention McArthurís threatening to strangle new China in itís cradle and use nuclear weapons against the newly founded PRC. Thatís one of the reason Truman said enough is enough sir, time for you to retire. So the Chinese have that memory.

But the American forces in the alliance are the legacy of that for them. And secondly, for the Chinese with regard to the peninsula as a whole is to minimize any role for Japan on the peninsula. Now you know the history here, obviously. Fortunately, given that history, Japan doesnít have a whole lot of claim to involvement on the peninsula. A lot of frictions and issues and problems there. I donít have to remind you of the territorialÖ other things stemming from the second World War. So those are two kind of broader considerations. What about Chinaís relations with actually South and North respectively? Iíll start with the South and finish with the North.

China-South Korea ties. Nothing short of extraordinary, especially when one considers the period of time in which they have grown. Really from 1992, I think is the diplomatic relations were established. Not so long ago. Today, let me just give you a few statistics if youíre not aware of them already. Trade last year, two hundred and twenty-seven billion dollars. China is certainly the ROKís number one trading partner. ROK ranks number four for China. Economically, in terms of investment, ROK investment has been through a kind of interesting cycle. It took off in the late 90s, early 2000s, as the ROK investment into mainland China peaked in 2004 at 6.25 billion dollars. It then began to level off and decline in fact and weíve seen a kind of rebound of sorts in the last couple of years. Last year in 2015, it got back up to 5.3 billion dollars is the number I have. The other way around, Chinese investment in the ROK, just under 2 billion last year. So there is a lot of cross fertilization and the investment sphere is not all about trade. There are approximately ten thousand South Korean companies now operating in the mainland, more than eighty thousand long-term South Korean residents living on the mainland. Thatís in addition to the seventy-four thousand South Korean students on the mainland, far and away more South Korean students on the mainland than in any other country, in fact I think twice as many. Tourists, another element, a not unimportant element because tourists spend money. Last year, 2015, there were 440,000 South Korean citizens visited China, number one of all foreign tourism for the Chinese. And the figure I got yesterday, which seems awfully high to me, 4.7 million Chinese went to South ten times. That seems awfully high. I see one of my former students in the audience. Maybe she can verify that. Certainly, tourists spend money. Thereís a lot of bodies going back and forth. There are more than 200 flights a day, lots of shipping, other transport linkages, etc. etc. These two countries are really joined at the hip in a lot of ways. And thatís positive and stabilizing, I think. As I say, itís part of Chinaís strategy to coopt South Korea.

What do the Chinese want out of this? Neutralization. Eventually, cooptation, and neutralization may be the intermediate step on the way to cooptation and expelling the Americans, which is really their number one strategic goal. What about political relations? Well you know better than I do, but itís had its ups and downs. Generally positive though since 92. President Park, when she entered office, placed very high value on China. Sheís the only other Putin, the only significant head of state to have shown up at the parade in Tiananmen Square last year. I think thatís shameful frankly. But she expected she did it because she was placing a lot of hope in China, delivering on North Korea. But China did deliver on North Korea. China never seems to deliver on North Korea. Weíre going to go into that in a second, why doesnít China deliver on North Korea. I would say that after the parade or around that time, she herself and the South Korean, what I understand, the establishment became a little disillusioned with Chinaís role there. And so thereís been a pullback of sorts. Many of her predecessors, I would note, went through the exact same pattern as well. So thereís been ups and downs. Thereís been disagreements over specific issues, the

map issue, I have to remind you. The Chinese have claimed a good chunk of North Korea, historically part of China. The Cheonan incident a few years ago, where the Chinese said that the evidence of the torpedo that sunk the Cheonan was uncertain and unclear and refused to have it brought before the UN Security Council. And indeed, the markings on the torpedo were very clear. North Korea stamped all over it. That produced problems between Seoul and Beijing. Recently and currently, we have THAAD. So there have been strains and thereís been this sort of warming and cooling dynamic that South Koreans get kin of euphoric about China and then they sober up a little bit. And then they get euphoric again, and then they sober up a little bit. The [unintelligible], the China fever in South Korea. Thereís a strong China fever there. Thatís why half of the South Korean population speaks Chinese. The President speaks Chinese. There are 74,000 South Korean students in China studying Chinese. So thereís clearly an attraction there, a cultural attraction from South Korea towards China. Anybody who studied the Chinese tribute system would say right. So thatís the hot part. But thereís also a kind of sobriety too. And that brings us to North Korea finally.

So how do the Chinese think about North Korea? God knows. But we all are trying to guess and figure that out. So as a China specialist, let me try and peer into the Chinese psyche on this a little bit. So kind of three general points and then number specific ones. So the first one is, you may not believe it, North Korea has been a strategic headache for China ever since 1950. China didnít know about the invasion of the South. Stalin knew, but the Chinese didnít know. We know that now from the archives. Thatís clear. So they were blindsided by Kim Il-sungís invasion to begin with. And then they got caught up in defending their own border. They didnít enter North Korea in support of Kim Il-sung. They entered North Korea to protect their own border because McArthur was threatening to cross that border and go to Beijing and take out the new communist regime in Beijing with nuclear weapons if necessary. So this was, in the Chinese perspective, a defensive counterattack. It had nothing to do with, they didnít approve of, know of, and support the North Korean invasion of the South. But they obviously did cross the Yalu and got involved in the conflict as a result. But from then till now, I would argue North Korea has been a major strategic headache for China. Theyíve been very provocative. Itís confrontational actions and policies from Kim 1.0 to 2.0, now to 3.0, are viewed with disdain in Beijing, make no mistake about it. The Chinese do not like this regime. And they speak very derisively about DPRK

. North Korean sycophancies with their leaders, the political system in general, real classic Stalinist, the militarized economy. The Chinese look at North Korea and they see themselves in the mirror. The 1950s China and the 1960s China. I havenít said a word about nuclear weapons, right? So this is all irrespective of nuclear weapons. But they have had seventy years of state to state ties, party to party ties, military to military ties, and other elements that have kept the ties between the two countries at least formally on keel.

So what about the specific elements of their calculus? First point to note is that halting North Koreaís nuclear program and its delivery systems is not the number one priority for China, which is not to say they support it. Quite the contrary. In fact, North Korea may not have such a program without Chinese support over the years. They donít want that regime to have nuclear weapons but the ability to deliver them. But itís not the highest priority. What is the highest priority? Regime survival. Their nightmare is this regime going down, for a variety of reasons. Number one, itís a communist regime. There are only five of them left on the planet, China being the biggest one of course. China fears color revolutions. China has itself talked into a lot of conspiracy theories about regime change of them. Another communist regime collapsing right on their border wouldnít be too good for their own legitimacy. And at the end of the day, it is the Chinese Communist Party that is the number one priority. Maintaining the Chinese Communist Party in power is their overriding priority. So, if the North Korean regime goes down, it has real direct linkage to the legitimacy of the CCP. Secondly, the potential refugee outflow would be enormous. Rebuilding of a united Korean peninsula, or at least the Northern part of it, would be astronomical. Youíve read these studies, it would cost four or five or six times more than what it cost for West Germany to absorb the East and so on and so forth. China would be impacted directly a collapsed regime. So China has tried, thatís not to say they like the regimeÖ Itís just that an existing regime is better than a non-existing regime. And they have tried for decades to try and move that regime is a more Chinese direction through reform, regime reform. They have brought, I canít tell you however, hundreds of thousands of North Koreans to China to see how the reform program in China has evolved over the last 40 years, trying to get the North Koreans to follow their reform lead. And the North Koreans just wonít do it. So, itís not just they want regime survival. My point is they want regime reform. They want to see this regime stay in power, but open.

Second thing they want from North Korea, a strategic buffer. The question may be why wonít they let the regime go under. The second point is a strategic buffer. They donít want the 37,000 American forces south of the 38th parallel on the peninsula at all, much less north of the 38th parallel. So this goes back to what I was saying earlier about their sensitivity to borders and wanting to create buffer zones, the Pentagon speaks for this as A2AD. I see we have friends from the Pentagon that have arrived. A divided Korea serves their strategic purposes as a buffer.

A third reason they donít want the regime to go down is because it would affect their already vibrant with the South. And theyíve played that card extremely well. Fourthly, I think they want to establish a dominant external influence over the peninsula long-term, as I said at the outset. They certainly, with respect to the current regime, Kim 3.0, they currently are doing their best to freeze him out. They havenít met with him, or they havenít had him to China. Xi Jinping has not met with him. Theyíve sent a couple high level emissaries to Pyongyang to meet with him, but every Chinese I talk to is very worried about this man, not that they were so fond of his father. But theyíre very worried about him. I would say those are the elements of Chinaís calculus towards the North.

Now enter nuclear weapons. Yes, nuclear weapons are and should be in the delivery systems to our American and Japanís and Seoulís, the whole regionís highest priority. Itís not Chinaís. I donít want to give you the impression that the Chinese donít care about this issue. They do. They donít wantÖ theyíre willing to work in certain frameworks, Six-Party talks and other frameworks to try and bring about the denuclearization of the peninsula. But itís not their priority. Their priority is just to end and to repeat, is keeping that buffer in their periphery, strategic buffer, and keeping the regime in place, because the consequences of a regime implosion are too significant.

Let me just wrap up and say so what does this mean for the United States in the new administration? I think, given the time, Iíll skip some of what I wanted to say. But this is issue number 1 on the agenda of the new administration, with China, and globally. This is the most existential threat out there. And while not yet existential to the United States, it is in fact to American forces in Asia. Given the development of ballistic missiles, it wonít be long before, maybe already, Alaska is within range, Hawaii is within range, the continental United States down the road. So this is a really serious issue and Iím not sureÖ I was at a conference last weekend where the participants were saying "weíve tried everything, except unilateral use of force against these weapons." Iím not sure what the next administration is going to do, but itís going to be sitting there on the desk of the next President at the top of the pile of the international affairs pile of papers at least. One thing I will say is however the United States deals with it, a multilateral approach is preferable. Iím not saying unilateral approaches are off the table; they can never be off the table, especially if existential threats exist. But to the extent where we can work with China, we got to have a real serious adult conversation with the Chinese. And we have to start bringing some pressure on China to bring pressure on North Korea. So this administration is already doing so with secondary sanctions of late. Chinese should be made aware that thereís going to be many more secondary sanctions. We got to squeeze them to squeeze Pyongyang in other words, because theyíre not going to do it out of their own volition. So that will contribute to greater in US-China relations, which is the topic I was invited to talk about it today. US-China relations have a lot of tensions. So letís add North Korea. Itís already a source of tension, but it can also be a source of cooperation if we and they find commonality in our position. So let me stop there. Iíd be happy to take any questions.

Moderator: Okay, letís give him a big round of applause.


Moderator: Alright now, Joe? First crack?

Joseph Bosco: Thank you, David for a superb presentation, not surprisingly. Let me offer not necessarily dissent, but a supplement to your explanation of Chinese motives. It seems to me that the Chinese nuclear and missile program for the last twenty years has benefitted China in very many ways strategically. It has been a major distraction, a diversion of resources, diplomatic energy, and attention, for the US. It has placed China in the position of being a responsible stakeholder, a good faith negotiating partner in the Six-Party talks. And every time the US a problem with China or with trade or with human right or other issues, the response from people in the administration and out of the administration is "but we need China on North Korea. So weíre going to have to be easy on these other issues." I would posit that itís worked quite well for China and that they have never really worried about the North Korea missile program. And indeed, thereís a lot of evidence that theyíve enabled it over the years. And I think this a perception that you have presented today is one that has not been held in the China scholarship community for the last couple of decades. Long overdue.

Moderator: Thank you, Joe. Peter?

Peter Huessey: Thank you very much, David. That wasÖ as someone who always is interested in how people perceive other governments, you have the Chinese [unintelligible] down cold. I must say, IímÖ one of my mentors is Tom Reid. And I bring this book when I go to Chinese events. This was written in 2009 by Tom Reid and [unintelligible]. And if you go through it, China is the number one nuclear and missile proliferator in the world. And it did so deliberate with its eyes wide open. And it hasÖ the only question in my mind is, and Iím curious whether you think they have, the Frankenstein theyíve created has gotten up off the bench and is walking out of the lab. The question is where does Kim number 3 or whatever go? If we donít withdraw from the peninsula and our alliance with South Korea strong, deploy THAAD, AEGIS, and any other missile defense we need, I think Brett Roberts is right in that we have to really start thinking seriously about extended regional nuclear deterrents, which we donít have in the Korean peninsula. We have our strategic deterrent, but that is aÖ youíre escalating pretty quickly if youíre going to use nuclear weapons in that respect. And though we keep sending over our bombers to give that signal to the Kim family and also to reassure our allies. My worry is, and I do a lot of nuclear weapons issues and a lot of missiles, I see that they have created, they did it with a Khan network, and they didnít seem to care much about is it a coincidence that the Khan network sold nuclear weaponry to all the, what we call, rogue states Ė these are totalitarian, fascist type states that are certainly not allies to the United States, though Pakistan is nominally, but look what they do with harboring the Taliban and Al Qaeda. They created the Taliban. Yes they helped defeated the Russians by funneling weapons and money through, but look at the guy we had to go through. So the price is pretty high. And when you choose to send Libya nuke materials, and Iran, I still think weíll find the Khan network also helped Saddam and North Korea, and in return North Korean helped Pakistan with missilesÖ Thatís a rogue gallery of not just Frankenstein, but a group of folks that have caused nothing but pain, and if you include Libya in it, if you include Iraq, and Iran, and North Korea, and Pakistan is kind of iffy, but itís certainly a problem and I think a lot of people worry about the stability of that governmentÖ ThatísÖ I donít think China did this by accident, and if they did, are they having second thoughts? And the question is is saving face more important than actually saying that this is a really bad problem? Because I always get a sense that we go to the Chinese "Oh just put a little leverage on the North Koreans," and they donít. They donít put leverage on this. Theyíve subsidized this regime, 80-90% of their food, their fuel, oil, trade, business everything, the banking systems. And then we were told the other day, I heard someone saying, "Well yeah there are a lot of organized crime elements in China and business people that do business with North Korea. But the Chinese donít know. And this included helping the North Koreans with their ballistic missilesÖ Sorry for the length of that, but itísÖ

David Shambaugh: Well Iíd like to take quick questions from the audience because weíve got ten minutes left. Iím not an expert on nuclear proliferation, but I havenít read this book, which I should do. I think youíre right up to a point. The Chinese were serial proliferators of ballistic missile technology, and we now know with the AQ Khan network, with the [unintelligible] material as well. But in the late 90s, I think they had a bit of the epiphany on this and came to realize that their previous behavior was going to come and bite them. And indeed, they were getting caught. Remember the M11 missiles and the crates and Karachi, that we photographed and found. And then we stopped one of their ships in the high seas, thinking that they were carrying missiles. Turns out, the so called Milky Way was notÖ Nonetheless, they were getting caught, A. B, they were realizing that some of these regimes they had been supporting werenít exactly stable or even China friendly regimes. And they were under enormous pressure to join the NPT and the MTCR. And it was a period of time when the Chinese were trying to join other international institutions. This was their period of wanting to be, seem to be at least, a kind of good contributor to global governance, a good member of the international club. SO they joined a lot of regimes in succession in the late 90s, NPT was one of them. They never did join the MTCR, in fact, becauseÖ a little bit of American hypocrisy here, as we had been calling for China to come into the MTCR repeatedly, and then, lo and behold, joining the MTCR is like joining a golf club: you have to have one of the members sponsor you. So Germany said, fine, weíll sponsor China. We get it. We want China in under this roof, so we can kind of monitor them. Then it turns out the appendices to the MTCR involved classified information. We did not, we the United States government didnít want to share it with China. So that was a little bit of [unintelligible]. Weíd been trying to bring them into this regime. The good news of that story is they never had joined the regime and they donít have access to the classified appendices, but they have been in adherence to the MTCR ever since. Those missile transfers to Pakistan stopped. North Korea, stopped. So I actually thinkÖ I agree with you, Peter. But I think thereís a timing issue here. The whole ballistic missile nuclear proliferation category, over the last fifteen yearsÖ I would stand to be correctedÖ They havenít been caught at least in this, and theyíve been in adherence to both of these regimes. But the damage had been done. The damage to Pakistan and the linkage you just noted to the North Korean regime is too late. So yeah, they do haveÖ they are indeed culpable on the North Korean program.

Moderator: Dennis? Do you have one quick comment?

Dennis Halpin: Yes, I was wondering, professor. You were talking about the traditional Chinese view of the world as Sino-centric with the Emperor, and peripheral states giving due homage. North Korea is infamous for having insulted the Chinese in many ways. For example, when Xi Jinping went to Seoul a few years ago, it was reported the North Koreans were doing on target practice on [unintelligible]instead of US soldiers. Another example, [unintelligible] who was a friend of China, maybe he was even filling in, telling the [unintelligible] what was going on. But one of the charges that was brought against him when he was tried and executed was engaging in selling off natural resources to foreign entities. It was pretty clear they meant China. So Kim Jong Un, I mean even his father and grandfather had resentments of China. But heís been so overtly insulting. How do the Chinese deal with that?

David Shambaugh: Yeah, exactly. North Koreans have kicked the Chinese in the teeth repeatedly. They are not acting like a docile tributary state at all. And they are playing off, at least traditionally, the Russians and the Chinese, going all the way back to the Sinos and the Soviets, even with the Korean War, playing the two off very well. So they didnít get the memo on how to be a good docile tributary. And the Chinese are very exasperated with them. And one thing I might haveÖ shouldíve added and I will now: there are a considerable community of Chinese strategic thinkers, intellectuals, foreign policy experts, who are arguing for dumping the regime and trying to figure out a path to a soft landing, i.e. managed collapse, or regime change. They wonít use that word but theyíre now speaking out, a number of these people, and speaking privately. I said the North Korea issue is going to be on the top of the pile of international relations papers for the next President. Within that paper should be some discussion with the Chinese about managing regime change, not just the nuke piece of the puzzle and not just contingencies for collapse. Now, the US has been trying to talk to the Chinese contingencies for collapse for a long time, and the Chinese absolutely refuse to have that conversation to their detriment. Itís ridiculous. Iím suggesting we have to do more than talk about the military consequences of collapse. Thatís the way the Pentagon, where the American government has pitched it to China so far. Our two militaries have got to be on the same page and in discussion with each other when this thing comes down. So what Iím suggesting is a little bit beyond that. We need to start having a conversation because there are a number of people in the Chinese Communist Party, Iíve even had conversations with one in the military, a number of intellectuals I know who say itís far past time that our government, China, ditches this regime and brings an end to this, because theyíre jeopardizing Chinaís own security in a number of ways. THAAD being one manifestation of that in their thinking.

Moderator: Thank you. Just one quick question. Very brief.

Man 1: [unintelligible]

David Shambaugh: Well Iíve always been of the view, I mean there is a kind of consensus in our field that a divided Korea benefits China. I donít disagree with that. It does and Iíve tried to explain why I agree with that part of the view. But there are many people in the field that believe that China wants a permanently divided Korea. Iíve never really bought into that. I donít think so. I think they would like a unified Korea under their tutelage, the way the tribute system works. Thatís the way they think about the peninsula. Theyíre open to various modalities to get to there. Whether regime change is one of those modalities is a new element. They were trying to push the North to open. They were trying to move from integration to unification. Theyíve been down several paths of discussions with the Koreans and with us, North and South. But theyíre exasperated. So your first part of the question, what would they do if there was a surgical strike against North Koreaís nuclear facilities, I donít know. But that should be part of the conversation that the next President has with them. Thatíll get their attention. Itís not an impossibility for them. They know that itís being considered and that everything else has been tried. It doesnít mean a nuclear weapon has to strike a nuclear weapon. You can take out the systems with conventional warheads, with a radius or yield thatís pretty concentrated. Iíd leave that to our friends in uniform who know more about this than I do, but a surgical strike against North Koreaís nuclear capacities need not spill over into China, I would think from what I know about them. If there have been conversations about how to deal with the situation after that, between the US and China, there may beÖ Iím just speculating. Itís all very hypothetical. But weíve got to have those kinds of adult conversations with the Chinese. We canít allow them to just say "Sorry, itís inconvenient to talk about such sensitive things."

Moderator: Well, ladies and gentlemen. Letís give Professor Shambaugh a big round of applause, Thank you.




( Transcribed by David Lee, ICAS Intern )

This page last updated January 15, 2017 jdb