- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 21, 2009

After studying China’s behavior over the past two decades, I find it clear that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has developed an extremely devious strategy to challenge U.S. strategic interest not only in the Western Pacific, but also globally.

To enhance Chinese power and influences, it has built networks with countries such as North Korea, Burma, Iran, Sudan, Venezuela and Yemen - to mention but a few - all of which are hostile to the United States and other democracies.

Further, China has been using proxies to further its political agenda as far back as the Korean and Vietnam wars to tie down and bleed America dry. It is essential for U.S. and allied leadership to balance the goals of a cooperative and peaceful relationship with China with unabridged recognition and realism on China’s actions.

The current economic crisis, coupled with two ongoing wars, makes such an assessment all the more urgent.

The recent North Korean ballistic missile launched under the guise of a test to put a communications satellite in orbit is a case in point. All the warnings not to test-fire the ballistic missile were ignored by North Korea and China. For that matter, China provided cover for the launch, and on May 25, North Korea conducted its second nuclear-weapon test and coupled it with ballistic missile firing. This means it is one step closer to being nuclear-armed.

This latest action should confirm for all that the six-party talks are nothing but a sham. The apparent erratic behavior of North Korea does not happen in isolation from Beijing. As former People’s Liberation Army top commander Gen. Liu Huaqing once told me, nothing goes on in Pyongyang that the Chinese are not “aware of.”

The most critical military threat China poses to the United States and its allies is its policy embracing proliferation of nuclear weapons and missile technology to North Korea, Pakistan and Iran. While China received credit for fostering the six-party talks, let’s not forget it was China’s role that helped North Korea reach the stage of a nuclear-missile state.

China also has given extensive nuclear-weapon and missile technology to Pakistan, and it continues to provide critical nuclear and missile technology to Iran. According to former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, there is reason to believe top members of China’s political and military leadership benefit personally from nuclear and missile sales.

If Iran achieves a nuclear-weapon capability and continues with its modus operandi to use proxies to further its objectives, there is a strong possibility that it could provide Hezbollah and other radical terrorist groups with these weapons for use against the United States, Israel and our other allies. We cannot allow that to happen.

For its part, China has not appeared willing to take any responsibility for its past nuclear and missile proliferation or the dangers created by secondary proliferation to radical terrorist groups. Since the 1990s, China has used its power in the United Nations (as has Russia) to shield Pyongyang and Tehran from any serious punitive sanctions seeking to end their quest for nuclear weapons. Also, China and Russia continue to expand their business and military ties to these countries.

Complicating matters is the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons remains a paramount concern.

The Taliban cannot exist without outside support. China has been a reliable source of weapons and ammunition to Iran, which are then passed to Shi’ite militias and the Taliban. Surface-to-air missiles (many of Chinese origin), Chinese-made large-caliber sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) as well as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have been convoyed from Iran to the Taliban.

In his new book, “China’s Military Modernization,” Rick Fisher says it has been reported that Iran has requested that the Chinese remove all markings from these weapons to conceal their origin. China’s association with the Taliban is not new. It was reported just before Sept. 11, 2001, that China was ready to establish diplomatic relations with the Taliban. The relationship in some form continues today.

With China’s growing economic, monetary and military power, it is critically important for U.S. leadership to stop the charade and judge China’s actions for what they are: attempts to complicate and weaken U.S. influence where possible.

The most critical objective for U.S. strategic diplomacy must be to tell China to reverse its nuclear and missile proliferation or suffer direct consequences for its role in future nuclear terror attacks. Washington also should:

c Recast the six-party talks. Withdraw from the six-party talks until China presents a timetable for how it will seek a verifiable denuclearization of North Korea.

c Confront China’s proxy war. China’s material support to the Taliban and Shi’ite militias through the use of proxies - e.g., Iran - must be exposed publicly. The U.S. also must state that it will never trade its support for democratic allies and friends such as Taiwan for Chinese concessions in its military support of proxies.

c Support Israel against Iran. With Iran continuing to ignore U.N. sanctions, China and Russia blocking more stringent sanctions and Iran’s nuclear-missile capability growing nigh, the United States should join with Israel to end this threat. A coordinated military campaign is needed not just to end this threat but also to remove a major Chinese proxy capability that threatens to usher in an age of nuclear terror. This could be the price for a two-stage solution to the Palestinian problem.

James Lyons, a retired Navy admiral, is a former commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations and deputy chief of naval operations, a position in which he was principal adviser on all Joint Chiefs of Staff matters.

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