Our news-hack kids — or, as Obama chief spinner Ben Rhodes called them, the “27-year-old know-nothings” — don’t have a clue as to the operative history of the North Korean nuclear threat to Asia, the Pacific and the United States.
This is different from the “fake news” reporting at which ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN have excelled over the past year.
This is “dumb news.”
The story should be that Donald Trump — probably the first president since Ronald Reagan — truly understands what motivates the People’s Republic of China, as well as the various factions in the Middle East. He also “gets” Vladimir Putin and Russia, and will deal with them accordingly. The common denominator?
Will the “Deep State” at the State Department and the intelligence community be pleased with this approach? No, and they will whine, complain vociferously and leak whatever stories they think will damage President Trump’s agenda. Just watch them.
To many Cold War veterans, the situation today seems analogous to how Reagan dealt with Mikhail Gorbachev, urging him to open up the Soviet Union, i.e., to “tear down this wall.” Then, when Gorby actually implemented “glasnost” — and opened up the Soviet Union to the West — it was effectively the end of the corrupt Soviet “nomenklatura” that had ruled for decades. It cost us nothing and was a stroke of genius.
Similarly, Mr. Trump knows that China effectively rules North Korea and Xi Jinping knows he knows. In other words, there is no fooling allowed in this basic equation.
Mr. Trump also knows that anything North Korea does must have the express approval of Beijing — this because political and economic dependence on China is absolutely critical to the continuation of the Kim Jong-un regime. Not only that, the Kim dynasty itself can only exist with the express consent of China — and Mr. Trump knows this as well.
So has China always known of the connections to, with and for the North Korean nuclear weapons program? And did China tacitly or expressly approve of these connections while knowing the details?
For sure. Little “rocket man” Kim — just like his father — wouldn’t and couldn’t have dared to take a nuclear weapons step without the approval of China, and Mr. Xi knows we know this.
Likewise, could China — on its own — shut down the North Korean nuclear weapons program, and do it whenever it wanted, and for whatever reason?
Also, for sure.
So what will it take to motivate China?
First, the Chinese need to know that we know they have to power to resolve it — and they do because Mr. Trump has probably told Mr. Xi that. Now, of course, Mr. Xi will deny this because it affects his leverage in the ultimate resolution of the problem. However, both Messrs. Trump and Xi know that this part of the equation is settled — and that China will get nothing for it.
Second, the Chinese need to conclude that the massive reactions to the North Korean nuclear threat, especially in Asia and the Pacific region, primarily — and ironically — threaten their own security. While they may have already concluded this, they will never acknowledge it because it also weakens their leverage.
Third, the Chinese need to understand that they also will get nothing of substance to resolve the North Korean nuclear weapons threat. This because of their complicity in it and the sham Six-Party talks and “agreed framework” negotiations in the past. They were complicitous in the nuclear weapons programs itself, and they were likewise complicitous in hiding it with the various sham negotiations over the past 30 years.
Fourth, and most important, the Chinese need to understand that the North Korean nuclear weapons program is their problem, and that we know this as well.
Now, because this is also Asia and the nuances of such resolution may never be apparent, what should we be doing now?
We should continue what we have been doing: First, increasing our military presence and exercises in the region; second, encouraging our allies in the region to increase their military presence and capabilities; third, establishing vastly improved missile defenses, both in the region and for the U.S. homeland; and fourth, improving and updating our own nuclear forces, both tactical and strategic.
Whatever we do, any kind of “negotiations” on this issue is not a good idea for us and, in fact, would complicate resolution of the problem consistent with our national security.
In sum, the Chinese know what they need to do — we should let them do it.
• Daniel Gallington served in senior national security positions and as a member of the U.S. Delegation to the Nuclear and Space Talks (NST) with the former Soviet Union.