The ICAS Lectures


Trump Administration's Policy Options Dealing With Maritime China

Dennis Wilder

ICAS Winter Symposium

February 24, 2017, 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Kennedy Caucus Room
Russell Office Building SR-325
United States Senate
Washington, DC

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

Biographic sketch & Links: Dennis Wilder

Trump Administration's Policy Options Dealing With Maritime China

Dennis Wilder
Assistent Professor, Georgetown University
February 24, 2017

S. Oh: Thank you, Dr. Kim for this uncommon opportunity to introduce our third speaker, Dennis Wilder in this hallowed chamber of the Kennedy Caucus Room in the United States Senate. Dennis Wilder is an Assistant Professor of Practice in Georgetown University's Asian Studies Program and Senior Fellow at the Initiative for US-China Dialogue on Global Issues. He's had a distinguished in the US government as the leading China expert, advises various agencies on US policy toward East Asia. He served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for East Asian Affairs on the National Security Council during the administration of President George W. Bush. From 2009 to 2015, he was Senior Editor of the President Daily Brief. His final position in government was as the CIA's Deputy Assistant Director for East Asia and the Pacific in 2016. Professor Wilder was also visiting Fellow at the John L. Thornon China Center in the Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC. Please join me in welcoming Professor Dennis Wilder.


Dennis Wilder: Good afternoon. I'm amazed with your dedication to East Asia. It is way too nice a day out there for you to be sitting here. I almost didn't show up. Let me begin by being very careful. You've heard my government career. 37 years of government service ended last April. So I need to put out the disclaimer that I do not speak for the United States Government or for Georgetown University today. I speak for myself as a professor of Asian Studies and a specialist on the Chinese Military. What I want to do today is talk a little bit about the new Chinese maritime assertiveness and what the administration needs to be thinking about as we move forward. First of all, this is, China's maritime assertiveness is a relatively new phenomenon. In fact, until General Liu Huaqing changed uniforms and became Admiral Liu Huaqing, China had, what referred to as a brown water navy. In other words, China had a navy that only operated along its coast line. Its main duty was to support the ground forces in case the Soviet Union invaded. That was about the limits of its capabilities. In 1986, the PLA formally from what was called the coastal defense strategy to offshore defense. Unlike its predecessor, the strategy called for the PLA navy to conduct independent naval actions farther from China's coast, although not yet in a blue water capacity. According to Admiral Liu Huaqing's autobiography, the offshore strategy was to defend China's maritime interest within China's claimed maritime territories. He is often called the Mahan of the Chinese Navy, or the Father of the Chinese Navy because of this. As he conceived it, this would happen in three phases. Phase one was to be achieved by 2000, during which time the PLA navy needed to be able to exert control within the first island chain, namely the Yellow Sea-East China Sea- South China Sea. China is behind in that goal, although they are working hard to make that a reality. Phase two, which according to the old plan was to be achieved by 2020, was when the Chinese navy would be dominant out to the second island chain, out into the middle of the Pacific all the way the Mariana Islands. And Phase Three of China's very broad naval ambitions would be to be a true global navy by 2050. December of 2004, President Hu Jintao put this framework on naval strategy into a political context. When he announced what was then called the New Historic Missions of the Chinese Armed Forces. And this has been codified into the Chinese Constitution as of 2007. Essentially, Hu argued that it was time for the PLA not to think of itself as safeguarding the party leadership and the security of China's land borders alone, but that it was time to think globally. He added a duty that has had a profound impact on both naval strategy and naval acquisitions. And that is he said that the duty of the Chinese navy was to safeguard Chinese national interests. This goes beyond territory. This goes to national interest. He noted that China's economic wellbeing had become reliant on seaborne trade, overseas oil, maritime resources. He talked about the Malacca Dilemma that China faced, and pointed out that more than 70% of China's imported oil came from the Malacca strait. But China had very little capability to keep that artery open if someone, probably the United States, decided that China needed to be sanctioned for one reason or another. This revision to mandate changed profoundly the defense spending priorities. If the navy was to safeguard national interests, then it had to have new capabilities. Thus, for example, the Navy finally was given the green light to take the stripped hull of the Ukrainian-built aircraft carrier Varyag, that a Chinese businessman had bought for the Chinese government in 1998, supposedly to be a casino in Macau, which didn't ever happen, not surprisingly. By the way, the Chinese businessman says that the Chinese government still owes him quite a bit of money for buying this for them. But fitted out for sea duty. And as you have seen, the Liaoning is now at sea. It's a trainee aircraft carrier, as opposed to a fully developed aircraft carrier. We know that two additional aircraft carriers are under construction. They say the second carrier will be launched this year. I'm not going to go into all of the details on Chinese naval expansion, but they include new destroyers, frigates, landing ships, nuclear attack submarines, nuclear ballistic missile submarines. And in part to learn how to do what they call far sea operations, in 2008, China's navy began operating as part of the International Counter-Piracy operations off the Horn of Africa. This has been very important to the Chinese navy because they have learned logistics at a distance. They have operated with an international task force. They have watched how the United States' Navy operates. It's been a tremendous learning experience for the Chinese navy. So with all of this, and the new strategy, I don't think it's a surprise that in 2007, we started to see Beijing become much more assertive about its maritime territorial claims in the East and South China Sea.

When I was at the White House, in the Bush Administration, this really was not a big issue. First of all, the Chinese were very much focused on the situation with [unintelligible] in Taiwan. So the Chinese military was focused on the Taiwan situation. But the first hint I got about this, interestingly enough, was from a corporation called Exxon Corporation, who came to the White House and said, "we are beginning to have trouble with the Chinese over our exploratory developments in the South China Sea with the Vietnamese." That was the turning moment when we realized Chinese attention, because Ma Ying-jeou was now elected in Taiwan, was turning southward. There was a change in Chinese priorities at that point. Now I'm not going to go into all of the developments that stem from aggressive Chinese actions in both the East China Sea and South China Sea. But I do want to concentrate on the period from late 2013 to make several points about our thinking about US policy. Many have noted that President Putin was probably emboldened to seize Crimea because of his perception that President Obama had not stood resolute after declaring the red line on chemical weapons in Syria. I would argue that many in Beijing came to a similar conclusion in that same time-frame. China surprised everyone when it declared the East China Sea Air Defense Zone in November of 2013. And it began massive artificial land reclamations in the South China Sea in early 2014. Now I have no evidence to this effect, but I will remind you that Putin seized Crimea in February and March of 2014. President Putin and President Xi have a close working relationship. I am not saying that they did this together. But they have discussed what they saw as a relative weakness of the American administration in this time frame and saw opportunities. Now, although the US military immediately disregarded the East China Sea Air Defense Zone and flew military aircraft through the area without seeking permission, it was not until he visited Japan six months later, that President Obama reiterated the US commitment to defend the Senkaku Islands as part of the mutual defense treaty. I think that was way too long. Similarly, Admiral Harris of the Pacific Command began to put light on China's audacious efforts to build what he called the Great Wall of Sand in the South China Sea in March 2015. But our response was neither swift nor resolute. Indeed, it's my understanding that President Obama did not have a serious discussion about this issue with President Xi until March of 2016, at least a year after the Chinese started this construction. And only after it looked like the Chinese might make an effort to build something on Scarborough Reef, which we clearly see as in the Philippines' possession. Now the Marsh seems to have been the Chinese from moving against Scarborough Reef. But again, I worry that we were late. As have often been commented upon, I would also say that US freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea have been too much a matter of political discussion in Washington instead of what they should be, which is a regular and routine part of US naval activity as they are all around the world. Thus one of the things you saw on the papers during this period of time were questions from our Southeast Asian allies on when would the US do another freedom of navigation, why we aren't doing them on a regular basis. I think it eroded our position. So I would say that even though the pivot to Asia was announced in 2011 and 2012, I don't think we backed it up with enough resolution.

So what is the Trump Administration, what are their options? First of all, the Trump Administration is going to have to decide what is the national security interest in these matters. What exactly is it that the United States sees as issues that are big enough that we are willing to risk a certain amount of confrontation with the Chinese over the issues. I think Secretary Mattis, when he visited Tokyo recently, made a very good start at defining American policy in the region. He reassured Japan that we're committed to the defense of the Senkakus, which is important to say and say it over and over again that it is part of the Mutual Defense Treaty. But Chinese pressure against the Japanese, that you can hear from any Japanese official that you wish to talk to about the subject, has not let up. And Beijing needs to know in no uncertain terms that we stand with our allies in Japan on this issue. Unfortunately the Administration has taken a decision early on that has put us in a bit of a hole in East Asia. And I'm speaking to the decision to not move ahead with the Transpacific Partnership. When I asked an ambassador from the region, actually at a dinner last night, what he felt the region needed from the United States, he was very blunt. He said, "we only need one thing. We need an unequivocal evidence that you're not going to abandon us to the gentle mercies of Beijing." That East Asia and Southeast Asia need that with all the other problems in the world, we are still committed to our alliances and our partnerships in that region because they cannot stand on their own against Chinese power. That is just the reality. Now Secretary Mattis will have a big opportunity to do this when he visits Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue in 2-4 June. This will be really the first opportunity of the Administration to speak to all of the East Asian Defense Ministers and Security Thinkers of the region. It will be a very important meeting and the administration should think very hard about what the message is, much as Vice President's visit to Munich last week. President Trump also will have to decide if he's going to take maritime issue as one of his priorities when dealing with President Xi Jinping. They are expected in July at the G20 Summit in Munich. This is one of the problems, I can tell you having been an American policymaker, that you have. You have an agenda with the Chinese that tends to be long. You have trade issues. You have issues of human rights. You have issues dealing with North Korea. You have a long list of issues that you're trying to get through with the Chinese leader. And frankly, with translation, with interpretation at these meetings, the time gets very short. But the Chinese notice when the President doesn't mention something. And so if the President doesn't mention the South China Sea or the East China Sea or some of these issues, the Chinese will take a message from that, whether intended or not. And the President's going to have to decide how much equity he wants to put into that issue, particularly at a moment where he's trying to get the Chinese to move on the North Korea issue. I think we need to make clear to the Chinese that while we are not going to try and move them back off these artificially constructed islands, because I don't think that is a realistic goal, that this militarization of the islands has to stop. There are recent reports in the press that we have seen buildings on those islands that will have long-range surface-to-air missiles in them. I don't know if that's accurate or not, but I will tell you long-range missiles put in the southern [unintelligible] are now a danger to all air traffic in the region. And I don't see why the Chinese need such a capability down there. Point defense on those islands, I can accept, even if I don't like, because there's a certain rationale of defending your island. But when you start to get into long-range capabilities such as putting fighter aircraft down there, or even bomber aircraft on those islands, I think that's way beyond the pale and I think we need to call the Chinese on them if they move in that direction.

The other thing, and I alluded to this earlier, is we need to just let the US navy do its job out there. We have a very fine Pacific Command. And we have a very fine Commander in Admiral Harry Harris. Harris needs to be allowed to decide when and how to [unintelligible] his ships in order to make the point about freedom of navigation. These should not be decisions made at the White House and National Security Council Meetings. These should be routine, regular operations of the US navy, just as they all around the world. One of the things people don't understand is that we run these freedom of navigation operations not just against the Chinese. We run them against the Russians. I understand we even run them against Canada in certain waters. Freedom of navigation is a principle, as Senator Sullivan has said here on Capitol Hill, this goes back to the founding of the United States. The Marine Corps Hymn talks about the shores of Tripoli. The reason that it talks about the shores of Tripoli is the first American overseas action was to defend American frigates from piracy off of the coast of Libya. And so, I think that China needs to understand that this is not just an interest of the United States. This is a fundamental part of the American spirit. We believe in free trade. We have been free traders. We've always traded with East Asia, all through the existence of the United States. And freedom of the seas is a premise that we cannot give up anywhere in the world. And we certainly can't give it up to the Chinese. Finally, I would just say that what I learned in the Bush Administration is that you need to talk candidly to Beijing. One of the problems I have sometimes with American policymakers is they go to Beijing and they want to be more Chinese than the Chinese. So they try to be polite. And when you try to be polite in a way that isn't American, you end up doing it very badly. I look back on the first trip of President Obama to Beijing, where he was very polite, and the Chinese took all the wrong signals away from that trip. And he came home and met with the Dalai Lama and did more arms sales to Taiwan, they were shocked. They said, "you didn't indicate any of that when you were here." One thing I learned from President Bush, and I learned many things from President Bush, but one of them was candor. Bush was disarmingly candid with world leaders. Sometimes, we'd be embarrassed at how frank he was with them. But I can remember him saying to Jiang Zemin in their first meeting in Shanghai, "you're not going to like what I say about human rights. I know you're not going to like it. And I'm going to say it in every meeting." And he did. And he always went to church to Beijing. He always hit the human rights issue because that was who he was and that's what he believed in. So I think that one piece of advice that I would give to President Trump is to keep your candid style with the Chinese. Don't pull your punches. Don't try to be polite. Let them know what the US national security interests are. They're big and mature boys now. They can take it. And we just have to have those kinds of discussion with the Chinese. Is this going to be a tough haul? Yes. And I haven't gone into all of the domestic, political reasons. I happy to talk about them in the discussion. But there are a lot of domestic reasons why Xi Jinping is pushing this, very good domestic reasons. So it is a difficult thing to stop the Chinese on their aggressive maritime behavior because it plays into a whole set of decisions he has made internally in China, again that I'm happy to talk about. Thanks very much.


Joseph Bosco: Thank you, Dennis for really fascinating talk. I was particularly impressed with your call for candor and straight talk by a US President. So I wanted to ask you about an area where the US has not spoken candidly for many years, a couple of decades, and that's Taiwan. In fact, when you served under President Bush, there was a moment of candor and direct talk when he told the world that the US would do whatever it takes to defend Taiwan. But somehow, people in the administration, and certainly in the media and the academic community, were shocked by such honesty and that was walked back within, if not hours, days. I wonder if you think it's time for President Trump to tell China that we will defend Taiwan and they ought to disabuse themselves of any concept of strategic ambiguity where we leave doubt in their minds.

Dennis Wilder: I think that, in relation to Taiwan, I have always believed that we have an assurance and deterrence policy, and should have an assurance and deterrence policy. What I mean by that is that we need to reassure Beijing that we are not going to support an independence movement on the island. I think that is a bridge too far. But we also need to tell Beijing, "don't have absolutely any illusions that you can coerce the democratic people on Taiwan into reunification." We have now had three democratic transitions in Taiwan. This is one of our biggest success stories in the freedom agenda, actually, around the world. And we should revel in that. I think that actually, the President's decision to take Tsai Ing-wen's phone call was a very good decision. I think it put China on notice a bit, and I don't disagree with it. What I think we need to do, Joe, is increase the officiality with Taiwan. There's talk of putting the Marine Guard Contingent there. I think that actually is already a decision because I think we're building the facilities for them already at AIT in Taiwan. I think that's a good step. I think that more cabinet should be visiting Taiwan. We need to get into a sort of normal relationship with Taiwan and I think Beijing needs to be mature enough to accept that. Absolutely. The commitment to defend Taiwan should be a bedrock, and I am fully supportive of it.

Dennis Halpin: Thank you for your comments. I appreciated also your point about the Secretary of Defense's visit to both Tokyo and Seoul and reaffirming. Before you were here, I just thought that something needed to be somewhat clarified. During the sessions with Mr. O'Hanlon, there was discussion about Secretary of State Tillerson's comments about blockading those islands during his confirmation hearing. I think it's important for the record to point he walked back those comments. That wasn't made clear today. There was also a question, you didn't mention exactly the 9-dash line. But before there was a question and I had a comment. I think the Court of Arbitration in the [unintelligible] sort of ripped up the 9-dash line last summer and its ruling. A problem here that hasn't been discussed about maritime issues in the South China Sea is we always say you are only as strong as your weakest link and also you can't be more Catholic than the Pope. I think there is a complication here in the retirement of President Aquino in the Philippines and the emergence of President Duterte, because you all know his remarks about his Chinese ancestry, being friendly with the Chinese, his trip to Beijing. If you have your only treaty defense ally, and we don't know yet, but my question do you think that President Duterte would cut his own bilateral deal, which is what the Chinese have always said. The Chinese have said in the South China Sea, "we want to go." Because it's obviously picking off little guys. If China can go separately to Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, and make their own deal about the South China Sea rather than dealing internationally with the Court of Arbitration ruling or dealing with ASEAN as a whole, it's greatly to their advantage. So it's problematic if their main treaty ally doesn't speak with the forcefulness of President Aquino anymore. So the question, do you think Mr. Duterte would cut his own bilateral deal on these maritime issues with Beijing, and if so, how would that affect the US policy toward the South China Sea?

Dennis Wilder: Well there's no question that President Duterte has thrown a wrench in the mechanisms. ASEAN unity on this is important. ASEAN standing together and pushing the Chinese towards such things such as a code of conduct in the South China Sea is very important. One of the things that I was heartened by this week was to see that the Foreign Minister of the Philippines seems to be taking a different position than the President. He seems to be alarmed by the new military developments on the islands. I'm hoping that President Duterte will learn something about China as he begins to deal with the Chinese. Because if he thinks he's got a deal with Beijing, he ought to be looking at the militarization of those islands. The Chinese did not deal honestly with the Philippines over Scarborough Reef in 2011 and 2012 when we thought we had an understanding. I think that the Philippines will return to its position because the Chinese will prove to them that their ambitions in the South China Sea are beyond what the Philippines can tolerate. And you're right, Secretary Tillerson did indeed in his written remarks walk back the idea of blockading. That is not, I don't think, a serious American policy.

William Brown: Dennis, thanks a lot. That was a great talk. I'm going to give away my North Asia prejudice here. I worked with [unintelligible] . He always worked on Southeast Asia and China. I always worked on Northeast Asia and China. And I'm thinking it comes down to really an issue to me of priorities with dealing with China. To me, I've been very frustrated, I'd say, the last ten years, when we talk a good game about North Korea, but we have done virtually nothing against it. And over this ten years, they've gone from maybe 2 nukes to maybe 20, 30, 40 nukes, missiles, maybe looking at ICBMs. I mean to me a catastrophic failure to our policy in Korea. I don't have a good solution to it, but I'm pretty sure China's a big part of the solution. Yet the so- called pivot to Asia, sounded good, to me it looked like a pivot to Southeast Asia. Again, no attention to North Korea really, and even the attention to Southeast Asia seemed so limp. And so focused on these rocks that frankly, even as an economist, I can't get too excited over. You talked about the freedom of navigation, I can't imagine China interfering with freedom of navigation when their total economy depends on free trade through the South China Sea. That's where almost all of their trade goes through. Almost none of our trade goes through it. I have a hard time getting [unintelligible] ownership issues over the South China Sea. I can see Australia. I can see Europe. I can see Middle East, Japan, South Korea. Everybody in the world should be very worried about the South China Sea because of all the traffic through it. Except for the US. It's on the other side of the world for us. We don't have to deal with it. Now I'm not saying that we don't, of course I don't like China pushing forward aggressively in that area, but to me it's a matter of priority and how much do we want to stick China on that issue and not stick them or not get them to collectively work with us on a, to me, a much more important issue on North Korea, and one that I think that we can actually come to a fine agreement in North Korea. I'm very optimistic actually, the last week. I think this coal deal is a very big deal. I really do. It's a order of magnitude bigger sanction on North Korea by China than all of our sanctions that have been imposed for a long time. Now, whether this was Tillerson's visit, I don't know. Was it Kim Jong Nam's assassination? Was it the solid fuel missile? I don't know. Maybe it's all three together, probably something like that. But I guess it's a long way of getting at do you think there's some ways here that we can really work not against China but with them, and again not to kill North Korea, but really to push them toward a reform that looks like China?

Dennis Wilder: It's clear I have never been able to teach Bill anything about the importance of Southeast Asia. But that's...

On North Korea, and I know you've had extensive discussions today so I don't want to go over the same ground, I do think, and I agree with Bill, that this is a moment of opportunity on North Korea. When the Chinese are willing to publicly say they are cutting off coal purchases from the North, that is a very big deal. It's something we haven't over the years been able to get the Chinese to do. Taking advantage will mean some very deft diplomacy. As you know, what the Chinese are trying to get us to do is to go back to the negotiating table without the precondition. What they would like is some sort of negotiating table decision where we will discuss a peace treaty and denuclearization simultaneously, or not two tracks together. I am not enough of a specialist on North Korea to know if that is even a possibility, but we do need to find a way to begin to talk to the Chinese about how we work together to get the North to halt its programs and roll back its programs. I think the Chinese have come a bit to the end of their rope with the North Koreans. The young man has refused to come to Beijing. He defies them at every turn. He killed his uncle Jang Song-thaek, who was the line to Beijing. He has now embarrassed them by this assassination. So I think it's a moment of opportunity, and I hope that the Trump administration understands and is moving quickly to seize that opportunity and see where we can go in putting real pressure. Because I think what has happened in the past is that the Chinese have sort of blocked us on sanctions. We've had to do sort of incremental step-by-step sanctions instead of really hurting the North Koreans. But this move is going to hurt them.

Larry Niksch: Just a comment and a question. To some degree, I'm repeating what I brought up in the earlier session. In the discussion about the Philippines, what seems to me was missing in terms of Philippine policy is on the South China Sea is the factor of Chinese money. Now I mentioned earlier the 24 billion dollar commitment that China made to the Philippines when Duterte went to Beijing and basically announced that he was going to divorce the Philippines from US policy in the South China Sea. The Defense Secretary gave an interview about a week ago. He said that he fully expects China to begin to militarize Scarborough Shoal with another one of these artificial islands with military capabilities, military facilities. The interest thing about that interview is that he did not say that the Philippines would oppose the Chinese doing this. If the Chinese do that, I think frankly, you can write off Philippine-American cooperation to oppose in any way what China will be doing in the South China Sea in the future. Duterte has his own grievances with the United States, the drug policy, criticisms of his drug policy, and all of that. But I think he made a calculation, probably a correct calculation, going back to Dr. Wilder, what you talked about, the timidity of US policy, US opposition to China, that the US really wasn't going to do much for the Philippines in dealing with China in the South China Sea, and that his better approach was to accommodate the Philippines to what the Chinese are doing. So after the trip to Beijing, the Chinese let the Filipino fishermen come back into the Scarborough Shoal to do a little fishing, and the Philippine press praised Beijing from one newspaper to another. The Chinese Ambassador, about a week ago, laid out 9.3 billion dollars of infrastructure projects for the Philippines, part of the 24 billion. And this is what our allies face when the Chinese come on and try to wean our allies away from defense cooperation from the US, that they can wield the big stick of big Chinese money. And I think this is what is happening with the Philippines. Vietnam too, which now says it will deal with China only bilaterally with regard to the South China Sea. And I would dare to say that on the THAAD issue in South Korea, you may well see the same kind of Chinese offers of big economic deals, big aid money to South Korea. If on issues like THAAD, South Korea begins to pull away to some degree from the United States. So I think a big challenge for the Trump Administration now is how to deal with the Chinese money factor in keeping at least some essential elements of our cooperation with our allies, because the Chinese are willing to play that card with a lot more money than the United States can counter, dollar for dollar. And this is, I think, going to be a big problem for the United States in the future in terms of our alliances in the region. President Trump deserves credit for what he has done with Japan, in solidifying that relationship. And I am wondering, given the, I think, deteriorating state of our position in the South China Sea, if one of the things we ought to think about doing, to compensate for that, is to follow up with the defense treaty commitment to the Senkakus, we're perhaps beginning to show the American Navy and the American Air Force more visibly in and around the Senkakus in the future, to really shore up that commitment to Japan. And I guess Dennis, that would be my question.

Dennis Wilder: I was just reading an article which I haven't had a chance to digest that says that the American naval and air movements have started to increase in the South China Sea and I presume in the East China Sea a bit. So I think the Trump Administration, maybe Secretary Mattis, are making some moves in that direction. But I agree. It is very clear that the Senkakus are part of the mutual defense treaty. There's nothing ambiguous about that. I've been bothered to see this huge increase in Chinese air activity, naval activity, drilling activity near that area, without much of an American response. I have talked to Japanese diplomats about this who are uncomfortable, and sort of wondering when the American response is going to be stronger. So yes, I think that's an excellent suggestion. I want to get back to something Bill said, because I do agree that the Chinese agree with us on freedom of navigation, and it is in their interests to have open sea lanes. But there are some different problems in the South China Sea, as our Southeast Asian friends have told us about. One is that the Chinese don't recognize other people's fishing rights, and they bring their fishing fleets in, and they basically steal everybody else's fish in the area because they've polluted their waters so badly that if you want to eat decent fish in China, it's got to come from the South China Sea. So there are problems other than just these islands. The other thing is, if the Chinese create an air defense identification zone over the South China Sea, we the United States aren't going to worry about that because we have the capability to defy it. But our friends and allies in Southeast Asia have a problem. Do they now have to notify Beijing of every single military flight or other activities they do in the air over the South China Sea and, in effect, recognize Chinese sovereignty in an outrageous statement. The 9-dash line, there is no historical facts to support the 9-dash line. The 9-dash line was created in 1947 by the Republic of China, and it was not done in any sensible way. In fact, if you look at the 9-dash line, it changes. Different people's maps have different interpretations of it. And in fact, it's actually an 11-dash line when it was originally created, but the Chinese don't use that because it shows that Taiwan within the 9-dash line right now, and therefore, they don't like to talk about that part of it, because they can't enforce that. So there is an outrageous quality to what the Chinese are doing. And I worry that you let them get away with that in the South China Sea, and it becomes a problem in other areas as well.

Dennis Halpin: I would like to just give another example of what Larry was talking about in Southeast Asian, I guess we don't say dollar diplomacy... As you know ASEAN operates by consensus. It has a lot of multilateral organizations. And the Chinese basically bought off Hun Sen in Cambodia with a big aid deal, so that when ASEAN was trying to come up with a statement about the South China Sea, Cambodia blocked it, and it again seemed to be one more example of the Chinese using... I mean Hun Sen is obviously open to being bought, so there's another example. And you had no statement out of ASEAN for the first time in their history because there could be no consensus on the South China Sea. So it reinforces what Larry said and what Dr. Wilder said.

Tong Kim: I just want to share some of my own observations with respect to what's happened since Donald Trump became President. I've been a student of American foreign policy all my life. And we need to look at two different aspects of the policy as a whole. One, we got to look at the policy formulation process, who does what and how does the final decision is made. And that's not clear yet. Also, then policy substance, what's the objective? What's the goal, and how we're going to approach it and how to do it. Now, neither of these two elements are clear at this point. For example, I do agree with a lot of the comments that was given as a complement to the performance and statements both Tillerson and Mattis made when he went to Japan and Korea and all that. And that's part of the continuity we are talking about. But President Trump was not a person of continuity. He was elected as an agent of change, and I think along with his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, we have no idea what kind of views Steve Bannon has on North Korea. We have certain things... formulations... We also hear from the news, which Trump describes as Fake News, even as the enemy of the American people. But nevertheless, we have no other ways other than just hearing about and watching who says what. And I've been very closely paying attention to every word that came out of these key individuals from the days of the confirmation hearing. Let me give some examples. Tillerson said he does not oppose TPP. In fact, he said during his confirmation that it would be good in the interest of the US economy. And Trump just terminated it. One other thing Mattis said that [unintelligible] works better in interrogation other than waterboarding. Then Trump tweeted that he still thinks that waterboarding works, but General [unintelligible] can override my view on this. So with all of this together, we don't exactly know who's doing what and how this thing will go. We also hear what Trump says is Fake News, that neither Tillerson nor Mattis was able to get through his recommended deputy secretaries if the fake news is true. We know Trump... A lot of people thought Trump would put this good men, put them in charge, let them run their departments, come with their recommendations, and then he makes his final decision. These two cases shows that's not the case. And another thing, after [unintelligible] was told to leave, and there was another who was recommended to be his replacement, that was Trump's first choice and then he turned it down for the reason that he would not be able to appoint and hire his own staff people. [unintelligible] We know about his military performance and accomplishments and all that. But we don't know what his personal views on North Korean issues or Korean Peninsula, because he's subject to confirmation hearing, he has not written anything, he has not given any speech on this matter either. So what I'm saying, at this stage of the administration, we don't know what the process is exactly. We don't know what the policy substance is. And no one can stay that this is Trump's policy. Now my question, there is certainly elements of continuity or possibly change... Number one, turning to the Asia-Pacific Area, and US relations with China... Number one, what happened to Obama's rebalancing to Asia. Is it done? Is it gone? TPP, according to John Kerry, there is very critical component of America's rebalancing to Asia, to reinforce our strategy. Now that's gone. So is there continuity in terms of US policy to China for example. The speaker mentioned very critical elements like not only just the China Sea and maritime capability and the idea of rebalancing to Asia was not just to cope with increasing Chinese maritime capabilities, aircraft carriers and whatnot, but also the economic and political influence in the region, whether or not the US would influence or shrink and finally be pushed out of the region. That I would think would happen anyway. But nevertheless, these are the questions... In dealing with China, South China Sea is certainly impending issue because we hear most about it, and also trades of course. No multilateral agreement and how he's going to deal with China for a deal other than what Trump said so far. He has his trade representative, but he hasn't put out anything yet... So one way you know about policy substance is when you understand the views of those players. And we don't even know what their views are. It's still in the early stage. One thing Trump hasn't said anything about is human rights issue in China. I don't know if someone else may have heard that. In fact, on his inauguration day, we're not seeking to impose our way of life on other countries, rather we will set an example. That's what he said. That reminds me, every president, when they come into office, say with big ideas. W. Bush for example, he said he was going to build a world of democracy, free of tyranny. Didn't happen. Obama said he was going to build a world free of nuclear weapons. That didn't happen. And I predicted that those things would not happen. Two years before Obama left office, I said Obama will never be able to resolve the North Korea issue. And it didn't. Trump said that what Kim Jong Un [unintelligible] that North Korea was in the final stages of [unintelligible] ICBM test. It didn't happen. He tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile. [unintelligible] So points... We don't know what Trump will do... [unintelligible] I'm not going to tell you guys, speaking to reporters, I'm not going to tell you what I'm going to do in North Korea... [unintelligible] Back to the question... What part of the mainstream policy has been pursued by the successive administrations from the United States will continue, and what should or would not, and what are the directions that the United States should pursue in this regard?

Moderator: Okay, last question.

Man 1: [unintelligible]

Dennis Wilder: I guess my answer is I hope not. I think that nothing is inevitable in this world. I would say that we have the ability to avoid war. I mean, you were mentioning what is the Trump policy. One of the things I do like what the Trump Administration says is Peace through Strength. If there is one signal that I'm looking for, it is this commitment to rebuilding the American navy. I think that the rebuilding of the American navy from where it is today at perhaps to 230-240 ships back up over 300 is something that needs to be done. I do believe America is the indispensable superpower, whether it's in East Asia or around the World... I'm always interested in this idea that we're on the decline and China is on the rise. This is a fragile governmental system in China. We have a robust government that has survived a lot of things and will survive long into the future. Xi Jinping runs a government that is not robust in the way that ours is. If you look at what he's had to do in the last few years to consolidate power, he has basically gone through a purge of his leadership under the guise of a anti-corruption campaign. He has purged 50 or more generals from the armed forces in China. He has purged officials all over the country. I've even told by my academic friends in Beijing that they are being looked at, that the universities are looking at an anti-corruption campaign, and if you're teaching the wrong things in Beijing. To me, that is not the sign of a government that is secure. That is a sign of a government that is worried that they're losing control. Many Chinese don't believe in the Communist Party anymore. They don't believe in Communist ideology. And you see that all over China today. So I'm not sure the inevitability of China's rise is nearly as secure as the Chinese would want us to believe. And I think it was outrageous frankly when Xi Jinping called himself the sort of Champion of Globalization. China does not play by free trade rules and we all know that. So we should be careful. We have a tendency in the United States to think we are on the decline right now. And I think President Trump is trying to bring Americans back to the opinion that we are a strong nation. And we are. We have a very strong economy. Our innovative society. I'll put it up against the Chinese any day of the week. So I think there is a difference.

Moderator: Well thank you. Let's give Dennis a big round of applause.



( Transcribed by David Lee, ICAS Intern )

This page last updated April 22, 2017 jdb