The ICAS Lectures


Trump Administration's Asia Policy

Michael E. O'Hanlon

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: Michael E. O'Hanlon

Trump Administration's Asia Policy

Michael E. O'Hanlon
Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution
February 24, 2017

David Lee: Before I begin, I'd like to thank Dr. Kim for this opportunity to introduce our first distinguished speaker today. Dr. Michael E. O'Hanlon is a senior fellow in Foreign Policy, as well as director of research for the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution. He specializes in U.S. defense strategy, the use of military force, and American national security policy. He also co-directs the Center on 21st Century Security and Intelligence. Dr. O'Hanlon is currently an adjunct professor at Columbia, Princeton, and Syracuse universities, as well as at the University of Denver. He is also a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He was a member of the external advisory board at the Central Intelligence Agency from 2011 to 2012, as well as an analyst at the Congressional Budget Office from 1989 to 1994. He has also previously worked at the Institute for Defense Analyses. Dr. O'Hanlon graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University, from which he received a master's degree in engineering, as well as a master's degree and a Ph.D. in public and international affairs, also from Princeton University. Dr. O'Hanlon was also a featured speaker at the ICAS Fall Symposium and this will be his encore appearance before the audience. Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Dr. Michael O'Hanlon.



Michael O'Hanlon: Thank you kindly. Good afternoon everyone. And I'm confident I can keep us on schedule at least, whatever else I may do, because I don't know much about what the Trump Administration's Asia Policy is, and I we're all in a position of trying to figure it out, or maybe make some suggestions and discuss the options. And that's where I look forward to for the majority of the 60 minutes that we have for this opening topic. So I view my own role as simply putting out a couple of observations, maybe a couple of provocations, and then looking forward to the discussion. I think that if we were to, first of all, look at what has been said, and what has been voiced by the Trump Administration so far, obviously there are a number of things that have been said along the way. There's been a lot of attention to President Trump's discussion of the Two-China versus One-China issue. There's been a lot of discussion of Korea and missile launches. There have been some nice visits and some golfing expeditions with Prime Minister Abe. There have been various comments about the South China Sea. Let me just mention a couple of these that I think are the most significant so far.

First of all, on China policy, you wouldn't necessarily want to recommend that it be made the way it has been made the last three months. But we seem to be in an okay place. We seem to be back sort of, to more or less, a steady as she goes on the One China Policy, carefulness in how we think about and talk about the Taiwan issue. Obviously, it's still early days. A lot of things could happen. There are a lot of specific questions that will undoubtedly arise. And with a relatively new president still in Taiwan, for example, it's hard to predict what will happen there, in terms of Taiwan-China relations. But I think, overall on China policy and broad security policy, Mr. Trump has sort of walked back towards something like the previous consensus. Where I think Mr. Trump will be more disruptive, and frankly rightly so, is on the US-China economic relationship. Now fortunately, in my opinion, he seems to be backing away from some of the more counter-productive ideas for, really, blowing up the economic relationship. For example, the 45% import-tariff idea that was voiced during the campaign, and perhaps even the currency manipulation concept, which is worth keeping on the table. I'm just not sure that the evidence suggests that China is currently guilty on that particular charge. But China is guilty of theft of intellectual property rights. China is guilty of having good access to our markets, and not granting access to western, or even other neighboring countries', firms. China is having it both ways, benefiting from its role in the international, economic order, without playing by the rules. Frankly, this was the reason why I was in favor of TPP. I thought TPP was an advantageous way for the rules-compliant part of the international community to raise the standards in their own trade, and keep China out until China would comply with similar standards. So I think that actually Secretary Clinton and President Trump were both wrong to make the call they did on TPP. But leave that as it may be. We'll have to see where the trade relationship evolves. There is a case for a much stronger and tougher American approach towards China on the economic front. And one more idea I'll mention specifically before moving on to a couple other issues, is the idea of my colleague, David Dollar, and he has suggested that we simply not allow Chinese state- owned companies or firms to buy American assets until the playing field is much more level. And you could imagine a number of other variations on that kind of an idea, economic ideas that would focus more on future decisions about acquisitions, investments. Not so much on disrupting existing economic and trade relationships, where I think you have to be careful, because you could easily do more harm to your economy, even in the interest of trying better to reconcile Chinese behavior with international norms. S that's my quick take on China, especially on the economic relationship.

But let me now talk about the South China Sea, a key related issue. And I think he important things we've seen so far on this question began, in many ways, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's confirmation hearings, where, as many of you will recall, he was asked about the South China Sea. He was very critical of China's behavior in reclaiming islands, and in imposing its way in that general body of water. And on that issue, now Secretary Tillerson was very much within the mainstream of much of American foreign policy thinking. But then he went further, and he said we shouldn't let them militarize these islands. We shouldn't let them continue to have access to these islands. That was a much dicier comment, in my opinion, because it raised the obvious question of how are you going to stop China from accessing these islands, which by the way, nobody else can rightfully claim except with a couple of cases like the Scarborough Shoal. But in terms of the reclaimed islands, even though China's behavior was assertive, verging on aggressive, it was not strictly speaking expansionist or aggressive towards another country. Yes there were some examples where it had used limited amounts of force in the past against Vietnam, and where it tried, successfully tried to keep Filipino forces out of the Scarborough Shoal. But China has found some fairly clever ways to expand without doing so in direct violation of the borders and territories of other countries. So China is showing a kind of behavior we don't really like, but it stops well short, for example, of what Vladimir Putin is doing in Ukraine. So I think we need to think very cunningly and craftily about the right response. We can't immediately go to a military response. But then as you know, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, went to East Asia, on his first overseas trip as Secretary of Defense, and he made some very reassuring comments. And I'll come back to a couple of those in just a minute on Korea and on Japan. But in regard to the South China Sea, as I'm sure most of you noticed, he said that he thought that these were issues that could be handled diplomatically. Now, I found that a very reassuring comment. Everyone knows Mattis is a tough guy. He's not going to be proposing that we back away from our military commitments, and he's speaking as the head of the Department of Defense, which is expected, under President Trump, to grow its navy, and probably to further expand its Pacific presence, even above and beyond what the Obama Administration had done with the so-called rebalance, or pivot. So in one sense, Mattis was obviously assuming that American military power would be a key component, a foundation of American policy towards the region. Yesterday, we had General Joseph Dunford at Brookings, and I asked him about this issue. And he reaffirmed, in a very calm, steady way, that we would, of course, continue our freedom of navigation activities, and other such presence and alliance solidarity activities, if you will, in the broader Western Pacific, including the South China Sea. But Mattis said on his trip a couple of weeks ago, we probably can imagine this problem being solved by diplomatic means. That would imply that we're not going to immediately insist on China pulling any and all military assets from those reclaimed islands, because if we were going to insist on that, diplomacy has, arguably, already failed. And they're already present. They've already somewhat violated President Xi's promise from the Fall of 2015 not to militarize those islands. And now it's a question of how much do they militarize? How do you define the term? How much more can we tolerate? And that's, in a way, a more forward looking conversation. So I think Mattis, to the extent that Tillerson had implied a more assertive American policy of rollback, Mattis essentially took the wind out of that kind of idea, or at least suggested that we would be more patient in how we would pursue that goal. So I saw his trip as very calming. And again, I see continuity.

I was struck in talking with General Dunford yesterday, by the way, more generally, and as you can imagine, it was a great honor to have him at Brookings and to have this public forum... But a lot of our conversation naturally focused on Russia and Syria, ISIS, the broader Middle East... When China came up, and even North Korea, but especially when China came up, I sensed that there was more of a calmness in the Pentagon and in the broader government. That even though we're aware that this is a huge historical challenge to deal with China's rise, there is not a sense of urgency to radically change course from where the Obama rebalance had been headed. Others might disagree. I'll put that observation on the table for now. Obviously, there will be a number of things the Trump Administration will want to reconsider, including the size of the navy, the size of the American military presence in the region. But I sense a likelihood of continuity to the first approximation in the first instance anyway.

Couple of points on Korea and Japan, and I'll stop. On Korea, we also saw Secretary Mattis go there. We know there are a lot of important and dangerous things happening on the Korean peninsula. Of course, when Mr. Trump got out his iPhone and tweeted about the missile launch... at the time we thought North Korea might be getting ready to launch... In that situation, he said, no we're not going to let that happen. And that was a little bit worrisome, because even though people like Ash Carter and Bill Perry have articulated that kind of a policy idea before, they didn't do it when they were President of the United States. And it sounded like it was possible that Donald Trump might be considering options like shooting down a North Korean missile on the launch pad, if you literally interpreted his tweet the way it sounded. But once the missile launch actually occurred, during the Mar-a-Lago visit and the golfing weekend with Prime Minister Abe and President Trump a couple of weeks ago, then the response was a little bit more muted. And of course, we had a big internally generated scandal about whether too much national security policy making was being made in an unsecure place in the resort in Florida. But we had much less contentious, substantive debate, because the first approximation... We've been through this before with previous Presidents. We know there are no great options with North Korean nuclear missile tests. The question is largely how can we convince China to put more of a squeeze on North Korea. The assassination of Kim Jong Nam seems to be helping in that regard, gradually reshaping China's own calculus. But I'm not going to predict any major change overnight, certainly. What I think the Trump Administration is realizing is that North Korea really is a nasty problem. President Obama counseled President Trump that that was indeed one of the uglier problems that he was bequeathing to him, and acknowledged that Obama policy hadn't done so well on this portfolio. And so the two President seemed to have a good communication on that subject, but really just to agree with each other that we have no great current policy and no great options, at least as far as one can discern from the outside about their conversation.

So then Mattis goes, of course he was, I guess, in Korea about the same time, or just before. And he, I think, had a good visit with the ROK. And you all will be following this issue very closely in this context, and we'll have more discussion about it this afternoon. But he reaffirmed the case for THAAD. He reaffirmed the fundamental importance of the alliance, the American commitment to South Korea, which President Trump had cast some doubt about when he was a candidate. I think as a candidate, he didn't appreciate just how much the ROK does take its defense obligation seriously. Most of you know that the ROK spends about 2 and a half percent of its GDP on its military, well above the NATO standard that we criticize our European and Canadian allies for not meeting. Of course, that same standard doesn't officially apply in Asia, but it's still worth noting that South Korea has a very good military and takes its own security very seriously. And I would say that the US-ROK alliance, in military terms, is probably our single-most impressive and powerful alliance, if by alliance, you mean actual cooperation, and sort of a parallel effort by the two sides. Obviously, the US-Japan alliance is very important, but it's more of an asymmetric alliance. It's not as much of a shoulder-to-shoulder kind of fight, as we say in the Afghanistan context, one of the famous expressions in Afghanistan, the whole shoulder-to-shoulder motto that NATO forces use there. We have the same kind of solidarity on the ground in preparing for possible conflict in Korea with our South Korean allies, in a way that we really don't with Japan. And even with our European allies, each one of them has allowed their military forces to shrink to the point where I would put the US-ROK alliance on an even higher footing than even the US-UK or the US-German alliances. That's my own personal view. Others may disagree.

In any event, Mattis made good comments, strong visit, firm visit, calming visit. China didn't like it because of the THAAD issue. But China's going to have to acknowledge that we've got some real worries. The ROK, Japan, and the United States, we've got some real threats from North Korea to worry about. And China hasn't been very successful in helping squeeze North Korea. So it's partly China's fault that we are where we are. And therefore, I think we should be unapologetic about our need to deploy THAAD. It's not done against China, and we shouldn't make it a bargaining chip in our US-China relationships. And I realize South Koreans are under a fair amount of pressure on this issue from China. But I think we have to hold steady. It's an important litmus test of our ability to do what we need to for our own safety, even if China doesn't like. Yes, we should find ways to reassure China that this capability is not going to, in any way, neutralize their deterrent. I'm all for that. But I think we have to stay firm as an alliance about the importance of deploying this capability when North Korea continues to modernize, test, and build its nuclear and missile forces.

Finally, on the US-Japan alliance, in addition to things I've already discussed and mentioned, I think Prime Minister Abe has figured out pretty well the kind of rapport he wants to establish with President Trump. President Trump is obviously a different kind of character in the White House, and a lot of people around the world are still very confused about that. I think Prime Minister Abe has had some pretty good instincts with how to get along with President Trump, about how to reach out to him, to try to build a strong personal relationship early on. Once South Korea resolves its political crisis, I hope South Korean leadership will be able to do the same thing. Luckily, we have a military alliance that gives us some of those kinds of connections even in light of the flux in South Korean political leadership that the country is experiencing right now. And so I think that the Abe-Trump relationship looks pretty good. I think it'll be helpful. I'm glad that Secretary Mattis reaffirmed that the United States considers the Senkaku Islands to be covered by the Article 5, US-Japan Treaty clause, because even if we don't have a position on who owns the Senkaku Islands, and we don't necessarily have positions on the islands that Koreans and Japanese contest, that in the case of the Senkaku Islands, they are administered by Japan. And any ambiguity about American commitment would be harmful to the cause of deterrence. So as you know, President Obama made that point a few years ago. Secretary Mattis has just reaffirmed it. I don't think we have any choice but to make that comment. It doesn't mean, by the way, that if China does something militarily right around those islands, we have to immediately respond in kind. But it does mean that we have to consider that to be a direct threat to Japan, and something we have to address in some way. And so I'm glad that Mattis has reaffirmed that.

So when you put it all together, I see a lot more continuity, at the moment anyway. It matters what day we're having this conference. If you had asked me to give this talk three of four weeks ago, I'm not sure I would've seen quite as much continuity. If you ask me in a month and we have another session, even this Spring, things might've changed. But at the moment, I see a healthy degree of continuity from Obama to Trump on Asia policy, even if President Trump is clearly reassessing the economic dimension of the US-China relationship in particular. And even if he is obviously going to, over time, rethink other specific aspects of a number of these relationships and alliance partnerships. At the moment, it seems that wiser, or calmer, or at least more cautious minds have asserted their influence, and we don't have a dramatic change of course in how President Trump is handling this crucial region of the world. So I'll stop there and look forward to other comments and questions on this subject. Thank you.


Moderator: Thank you. Okay, Larry?

Larry Niksch: Thank you, Sang Joo. Mike's observation about the Trump administration and the seeming calming direction that it's moving towards, I think is correct. But I think there's another side of this now in the region. And the other side of it is what kind of effects are new policies and actions by US allies and friends having and will have in the future on continuity of US policy. Let's look at the Philippines for example. President Duterte has divorced the Philippines from US policy, from support of US policy in the South China Sea, both diplomatically and militarily. He is welcoming the Chinese responses to this policy. 24 billion dollars in aid promises form the People's Republic of China to the Philippines. Vietnam has now stated that with regard to its dispute with China in the South China Sea, Vietnam will deal with China only bilaterally. In other words, not seeking support or involvement from other countries. And then let's look at South Korea and the turmoiled political situation in South Korea. I just looked at the recent polls. Moon Jae-in is way ahead. In terms of party preferences for the next election, his party is at 45% of the polls. What's left of the [Unintelligible] party, 13%. The people's party, 12%. If the Constitutional Court rules against President Park, which seems to me is highly likely, and an election takes place as early as May, Moon Jae-in looks like a very heavy favorite to become the next president of South Korea. Now what does that mean for the Alliance? He has said that his first visit will be to North Korea rather than the United States. He has also said that a top priority of his foreign policy will be to strengthen relations with the People's Republic of China. He has voiced skepticism, to put it mildly, about the THAAD proposal, about implementation of the agreement to THAAD. There are other issues, depending on how he negotiates with the North, reopening of Kaesong, the OPCON agreement, even the issue of future US military exercises, US deployments on a rotational basis of advanced weapons systems, that he may well begin to raise and question with the United States. So the Trump Administration already faces this challenge in the South China Sea. And the question is with the Philippines and also Vietnam divorcing themselves from the United States with regard to any sort of opposition to what China is doing in the South China... Is any kind of US policy to oppose China, even the kind of mild, cautious policy that you were alluding to, is that really possible now given where our allies are going? And to narrow the focus in South Korea, if Moon Jae-in is elected and says that he is unwilling to implement the THAAD proposal... In terms of that issue and the broader deterrence issue that that represents, what are the options for the Trump Administration to deal with a rejection of the THAAD proposal?

Michael O'Hanlon: Why don't I take some notes for a while and then see what I can say later on?

Joseph Bosco: Thank you, Mike, for your usual excellent overview of the strategic situation. I would like to express a mild dissent and indicate that I think that optimism is warranted with some of the approaches that the Trump Administration is hinting at. And I think they're long overdue, both on North Korea, on the South China Sea, and on Taiwan. I would like to pick up on the comparison you made in the Tillerson and Mattis comments and how you contrasted what China is doing in the South China Sea to what Russia has done in Ukraine and Crimea. You made the point that, unlike Putin, Xi Jinping has not directed his assertive or aggressive behavior at a particular country. And I think that's more or less true. But the flip side of that is that he's directed his assertiveness at the entire world. The claims he's making in terms of these reclaimed islands have maritime implications. They're claiming territorial seas around each of those islands. And that restricts access by the United States and the entire world that uses the South China Sea. So I think we shouldn't minimize the significance of what China's doing there. In terms of Freedom of Navigation Operations, I believe that they have been sadly lacking in what they have accomplished. In fact, I think you could make the argument that they've been counterproductive. By sending our ships within 12 miles of some of these islands, under innocent passage rules, we're more or less conceding that China's claim to the territorial waters is valid. Otherwise, we would be going through in normal operating mode. So I think we made a serious mistake in the ops we've conducted there, and I hope the Trump Administration will redo those and do them in the proper manner. I'm interested in hearing your reaction to that.

Dennis Halpin: Thank you very much for a very interesting presentation, Mr O'Hanlon. I'd just a couple things. On the One-China policy, it's true that President Trump discussed this with Xi Jinping. When you discuss the One-China policy and you back to the Three [Unintelligible] , it's a little bit like the Catholic Church defining the immaculate conception. The words and the history are extremely important, and one has to be almost a scholar of canon law to understand what they're talking about. I don't want to sound like Kelly Anne Conway, talking about alternative facts, but I have to say that some of the reporting on the phone call, it said, the Washington Post for example, President Trump said he honors Beijing's One-China policy that recognizes Taiwan as being under the People's Republic, even though it has a separate government. Well that was not exactly correct. I looked at the White House transcript, it says honors our One-China policy. I think it should be noted for the record that when Henry Kissinger and [Unintelligible] negotiated the Shangai [Unintelligible] in 1972, the two sides agreed to disagree on Taiwan and the One-China policy. China, of course, said Taiwan is a province and no one should interfere with the Taiwan issue. The United States said we acknowledge that Chinese on both sides of the straits say there's One China. We don't dispute this. But we look for a peaceful solution that includes the opinions of Chinese on both sides of the strait. So I think it should be pointed out also the White House Press release said President Trump honors our One-China policy, which would be the US One-China policy. Because to honor Beijing's One-China policy would have been a change in US policy. Also, the word honors, which the White House uses, that verb, as I said, every word on One-China policy is important. I think people would have preferred to stick to the traditional word acknowledge rather than honor. On the South China Sea, in discussing that it's true most of these islands, man-made islands, are under China, and you mentioned the Scarborough Shoal... I would just mention that the largest island, rock, whatever it is, above water 24 hours a day, [Unintelligible] , is actually under the administrative control of Taiwan. So let's not forget that. It's the biggest piece of real estate in the South China Sea. On trade issues, I would just say, yes I agree completely with Mr. O'Hanlon. My view is that the Asia-Pacific is now the main player, economically, in the world. And if you're going to go play poker, and you don't have a seat at the table, you can't play. So that's the point there. I would think also that there is some concern still with Peter Navarro in the White House and his new position as Special Trade Rep. Whether there will be punitive tariffs, 45 percent tariffs, against China. Currency Manipulator. I think it's very important for other countries, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, to pay attention, if there was ever a tariff, to see if it says Chinese-owned goods from Chinese companies, or Chinese-origin goods. Because let's not forget, Foxconn, for example, the Taiwanese chip maker that supplies Dell computers and many other people, the management and capital might be Taiwanese, but the factories and labor force are in China. I think the same is true for Korea's Samsung. So if you had Chinese content products put on a 45 percent tariff, you could see a tariff on Dell computers with Foxconn chips. You could see a tariff on Samsung TVs if they were actually manufactured in a factory in China. Then I'll just finally, talking about North Korea... If you want to read more on the One-China Policy, Global Taiwan Institute does a biweekly newsletter. I wrote an article that goes into this whole One-China policy called "Trump's Taiwan Policy: The Jury is Out." So you can look at that if you want to read the details... On the missile, I agree. Mr. Trump drew a red line with his tweet as Mr. O'Hanlon pointed out, which was kind of surprising. After all, the criticism about President Obama's red line with Syria... I'd only say that the missile shot during the [Unintelligible] summit was a short-range missile. Trump was talking about long-range ballistic missiles. So they didn't have time to shoot it down. So that still doesn't mean Mr. Trump wouldn't try to shoot down a long- range missile. I don't know. Nobody knows. But it would be in the air long enough to shoot it down. And on the issue of China/North Korea policy, I wrote something yesterday with NK News, which hasn't come out, but it says don't bite the hand that feeds you. It points out a long list about how Kim Jong Un, unlike his father and grandfather... His grandfather very skillfully played off the Sino-Soviet split to get concessions from both Beijing and Moscow. His father, Kim Jong Il visited China seven times. Even right before he died, he went in his last two years three times. He went to the Shanghai stock market. He did a repeat of Deng Xiaoping's southern tour in 2006 of the free economic zones. So at least Kim Jong Il pretended that he was interested in market opening and reform, which the Chinese wanted. Kim Jong Un has not been to China at all. I don't know when the Chinese are finally going to get fed up, but this article, when it comes out, it lists all of the insulting things he's done, like doing a nuclear test in 2006 during the Lunar Chinese New Year, when all of the Chinese officials had to go back from their hometowns to Beijing. So I guess that's about all my comments. I enjoyed your comments.

In Bum Chun: Thank you. Concerning Dr. Hanlon's comments. From a Korean standpoint, no great policy and no great options, multiply that by a thousand, and that's how a Korean feels right now I think. The squeeze on North Korea by the Chinese, I think we really need to realize the level of contempt that the North Koreans have for the Chinese. They've been saying privately and publicly how they despise the Chinese, and they even tell us South Koreans, "I mean, how can you trust the Chinese?" So I think it's going to be a good test or practice as we see what the relationship is going to morph into in the coming months, as we have a pro-Chinese brother being killed, and see what bad happens. It also seems that the North Koreans are now knocking on Middle Eastern countries, even to the Palestinians, for new relationships. So maybe they have other ideas for increasing their options. But most interesting, what you said Larry, about Moon Jae-in... This is what Moon Jae-in said about going to North Korea. He said that "if it will contribute to the resolution of the North Korean nuclear problem, I will consult with neighboring countries," which means Japan, the United States, and China, and he could feasibly visit North Korea first. That's what he said. So remember, during World War II in the Pacific, the marines had a saying, "only believe 1/4 of what you hear and half of what you see." I think we need to be careful about what political, polarized media says about candidates. So that's what he really said about going to North Korea first. Concerning THAAD, I think it's safe to say that even Mr. Moon realizes that we must, and he has said publicly that we must respect international agreements. I have said that there's no way that we Koreans will be buckling under Chinese economic pressure. And by the way, it seems that once THAAD does deploy to the Korean peninsula, the Chinese will have threatened privately and openly that they will conduct severe economic pressure to Korea, that a new definition of Korea-Chinese relations will begin. I think as an alliance, and to America, what America really needs to think about is it really in the US best interest if the Chinese and Koreans are at their throats 50 years ago. So that's another looming question that we need to think about. So concerning THAAD, I think that there should be no doubt that we will deploy the THAAD battery to South Korea. But there are things that we need to talk about. For instance, one battery of THAAD is not going to cover all of Korea. We're going to need more THAAD, or maybe another type of missile system. And the whole process of THAAD coming to Korea in the first place did not have the kind of consensus that most Americans believed that there exists in South Korea. So those are the kind of things that I think we need to talk about. Kae Song and [Unintelligible] , all of these issues that I'm sure we'll be talking as allies. We will have a consensus between our two countries and we will move along like two, shoulder-to-shoulder, as you said, in the future. Thank you.

Michael O'Hanlon: Thank you for the excellent comments. Thank you for excellent responses, and it's an honor to be among people who are actually real experts on this region and have done so much for its security over the years. I'm not going to try to respond to each case. I actually thought the sum total of all the comments were enriching. And even where people were partly disagreeing with me, I think that was actually healthy to sort of broaden the possible interpretations of different issues. For example, Joe's point about how we should be seriously concerned about China's behavior in the South China Sea, I do agree with him. And I'm glad he emphasized that point. If you literally look at what China has said and what it's trying to impose, it's pretty scary stuff. It's not good. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm relatively confident that our policy responses are working pretty well. But Joe raises a very good specific point about whether we have been mistaken to use the innocent passage. So, as I think most of you know, I'm not an expert on this kind of international law. But if you just go quietly within would-be territorial waters, and you make sure that you're just sailing in a straight line, that is implying that you recognize that another country has ownership of that territory and therefore, these are territorial waters, and therefore you have to sort of behave yourself and quietly get through as quickly as you can, even if it's international waterways that you need access to. Joe raises the very valid point that if we're disputing the very fact that these islands can be owned by anybody at all, as the [Unintelligible] Tribunal underscored, maybe they shouldn't be viewed that way... Then, maybe we need to do something more than just innocent passage. I guess my instinct would be to think this through, to take up Joe's good point and challenge, but ask maybe can we do this with a relatively small vessel, and some kind of a military maneuver that is not about, couldn't be interpreted as gearing for combat with China, but still a military maneuver. It could even involve a Coast Guard ship. It could even involve humanitarian response. Maybe there are ways to do it to prove the principle, but also send a message that you're trying to not require China to make a response, that you're trying to still keep this thing under wraps. That's sort of my instinct about how to take that conversation to the next option or set of options. And then just one more point on THAAD. I'm with the General. But Larry raises the valid point of what if the possible future president of the ROK won't allow it. If I were in government, I'd just say that was too many hypothetical to have to respond to. But since I'm not in government, I will take up his challenge and I would want to try to one, two, three, four, five times to restore the case for THAAD, even with a new president who came into office saying he didn't want it, because I think it is the best response to a very valid threat. And the more we start thinking of this as something that's a bargaining chip in our conversation with China, the more we get into difficult terrain. We really don't want to even acknowledge that our view about THAAD has anything to do with our relationship with China. It could be Canada or France right there and we would still want to deploy THAAD. Because the point is that this is against a North Korean threat that is acute and growing. So I don't really want to entertain the conversation that suggests that what we're doing is somehow in any way related to our broader relationship with China. Recognizing that the Chinese are going to be upset, but hoping that over time, they will recognize that we're doing this as a matter of principle. They may not like it. They may disagree with it. They may not fully understand it at first. But I would try multiple times with a new South Korean president to make the case for THAAD, even if the new president didn't initially want it. And then if we wind up still not succeeding with that argument, then sure. Then you have to think more about Patriots, and then you got to have a lot of batteries all over the ROK, because Patriot's range is so limited, and it's really not a good substitute for THAAD because it's a terminal defense, and you want multiple layers of defense, not just one. That's what you'd have to try to do. But much better to make the case for THAAD. One last thing I'll say. We haven't had a broader discussion here. Maybe you will later on today, I think, about the Six-party process and overall negotiating strategies towards the DPRK. I do think we should have a full discussion about what kind of strategies we might employ in negotiations with North Korea. I think some of the old strategies need to be rethought. I'll just leave that as a simple point for now, knowing that you're coming back to that later. But as long as North Korea has a growing missile and nuclear capability, we need to respond. We need military countermeasures and defenses. And there should be no apology about that towards China or anybody else.

Moderator: Thank you. Now, in the interest of time, we'll open to the floor. Just one or two quick questions.

Man 1: [Unintelligible]

Michael O'Hanlon: Maybe I'll take the first and let Joe take the second, if you want. If that's okay. But on Aegis, Aegis can have the same issue as THAAD. If the Chinese are worried about... To the extent that the Chinese have any kind of a valid worry, and that we might in the same situation ourselves... It's about the radar. It's about the ability of an advanced US radar based on the peninsula to peer into China and see missiles that might be launched from there, especially from Northeastern China. And so I don't think an Aegis option solves that. In other words, we could expect the Chinese to object to that too. Now your idea is great if we can somehow persuade the Chinese not to object. But the bottom line is that I think we have to do this regardless of what the Chinese say, provided that it doesn't put Seoul is an unnecessarily difficult place. I would hope that, in the end, the Chinese will recognize that we're just going to do this. The alliance is going to do this whether they like it or not because we have to protect ourselves. And we've all failed, and they've failed too, to address the North Korean threat in any non-military way. So we're going to need to have better military responses. I would just do it and take the fallout in the US-China relationship. I think they'd get over it.

Joseph Bosco: Your point is well taken regarding the 12 mile territorial waters and the 200-mile economic exclusive zone. But if we don't recognize the original territorial claim of China that eliminates both. Both of the bodies of water you're describing are international waters, high seas. And therefore, we can do whatever we normally do on the high seas.

Man 2: As I understand the South China Sea issue, the element in the room, so to speak, is the 9- dash line and its legitimacy. If we assume that the 9-dash line is legitimate, which is equivalent to the United States claiming the Gulf of Mexico, then everything else also falls apart for us. These are no longer international waters. But if we rejected legitimacy, then everything falls apart and you're talking about a couple of specks here and there. There's a philosophical difference between the way that Westerners and Asians approach such matters. For us, silence implies consent. If we don't enforce our rights in these international waters, then we accept China's position and we recognize their claim. Comments?

Michael O'Hanlon: I'll say one thing. Bill Brown might want to say something else. Others may as well. Very simply, I think there is no way the United States is going to recognize the 9-dash line as drawing a literal territorial sea equivalent for China. We're sailing through those waters all of the time. And a third of the world's maritime commerce goes through those waters, making no port calls or requests for permission from China. So I think that's just off the table. China has this notion... My understanding, and others can correct or add or disagree, my understanding is that China, even in a more maximal interpretation, of their own view of what's a pragmatic goal for that 9-dash line, they love to, over time, push us out of our ability to operate with military capability in that zone, and they probably like to have first dibs on seabed resources, at least the first among equals in development of economic resources in that whole area. Beyond that, I don't know that they even have a literal aspiration. Leave aside the rhetorical position. The aspiration to have that treated as a territorial body of water of the PRC is just off the table as far as I'm concerned.

William Brown: Yeah, I think it's off the... I don't think the Chinese claim that anyway. The 9- dash line, what they say, is that any rocks or islands within that is theirs. Not the sea, the rocks. That's a big difference. They've never complained about having... the issue of freedom of navigation has never been an issue there. They would kill themselves by trying to stop that. I think a lot of this is just a red herring. The US, for many years, in my understanding, was brutally neutral on who owns those rocks. We said that it's not us who decides. It's you all who decides. We're not going to agree or disagree with Chinese or Philippines or anybody's claims. That's my view that we should stick to that.

Moderator: Thank you. In the interest of time, this segment is over. Thank you very much, Mike.



( Transcribed by David Lee, ICAS Intern )

This page last updated April 20, 2017 jdb