NIGHTMARE FOR JAPAN: TRUMP’S PLAN FOR “GRAND BARGAIN” WITH CHINA
President Trump will be visiting five Asian nations November 5-13, including Japan and China. As tension continues to heighten over the Korean Peninsula, one cannot but pay special attention to what developments might play out during his visit to Beijing.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has just got through the 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), managing to elevate himself to the status of a virtual despot. How will he face Trump? Will the US be able to continue to honor its traditional values based on freedom and contribute to a new and fair world order?
Undoubtedly, the outcome of the Trump-Xi talks in Beijing will significantly affect the fate of all of Asia—especially Japan.
An intriguing article was carried in the October 28 issue of Newsweek—an analysis of US-China relations by respected journalist Bill Powell.
Trump is “considering a grand bargain with China,” wrote Powell. His analysis has its origin in a visit that former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made to the White House in October.
Kissinger’s unreserved enthusiasm for China is a well-known fact. Powell wrote: “So it was telling that Kissinger, now old and frail, was in the White House in October to meet with Donald Trump. The administration is in the middle of a month-long review of its China policy—one it will complete before the president embarks on a trip to East Asia in November. The timing is important.”
That Kissinger advised the president as he grappled with Washington’s Asian policy in preparations for his imminent visit to Beijing has huge implications.
In the “grand bargain” Powell referred to: 1) China would use all its diplomatic and economic leverage to pressure Kim Jong-un to give up his nuclear program; 2) If Kim followed through in a way that could be verified, the US would agree to recognize North Korea diplomatically; 3) The US would supply North Korea with economic aid; and 4) The US would eventually withdraw its 29,000 troops from South Korea.
A withdrawal of US troops from South Korea would clearly be a great boon not only for North Korea but China as well. On the contrary, it would be devastating to South Korea’s security and very bad news for Japan.
What is viewed as a precondition for Trump’s alleged deal with China is the “Four No’s” principle repeatedly referred to by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, which boils down to:
“We do not seek regime change (in North Korea), we do not seek regime collapse, we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, and we do not seek a reason to send our forces north of the demilitarized zone.”
US-South Korea Alliance Would Lapse
To pledge to not send its troops into North Korea means that Washington would not infringe on what to Beijing is one of its most vital interests. No wonder China has shown strong interest in the “Four No’s” policy.
Apparently, US officials who visited Beijing recently were bombarded with questions pertaining to the policy, such as whether Tillerson has won Trump’s approval for it, to what extent Trump is serious about it, and if Trump intends to make it a formal policy.
Elsewhere, Kissinger has expounded a view that the US should more proactively take into account Chinese sentiments. His Wall Street Journal column titled “How to Resolve the North Korean Crisis” (August 11, 2017) is a case in point.
In that piece, Kissinger stated: “American as well as multinational diplomacy on North Korea has been unsuccessful, owning to an inability to merge the key players’ objectives—especially those of China and the US—into an operational consensus.”
Kissinger noted that neither the US nor China wish to see the proliferation of nuclear weapons, but differ when it comes to specifics beyond that basic goal. In the case of China, he explained, their first major objective is to avoid chaos in North Korea, thereby avoiding any impact on China itself. The second objective is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. “China’s incentive to help implement denuclearization will be to impose comparable restraints on all of Korea,” he observed.
If the “Four No’s” policy were implemented, the US would withdraw its forces from the Korean Peninsula. That would mean an abrogation of the US-South Korea military alliance, which naturally would lead to a marked increase in China’s influence over the peninsula. Kissinger is urging the US to accept this scenario and embrace greater attention to China’s fear of such matters as a possible influx of refugees from North Korea and its effects on various minority groups within China.
Kissinger’s scrupulous attention to the Chinese is impressive. But what about his attention to the Japanese? I believe we must consider that Kissinger and the Chinese who wish to perpetuate a denuclearization of North Korea are bound together by a shared tenet that Japan should forever be banned from going nuclear.
Kissinger’s article made me recall a statement about US forces in Japan that he reportedly made to then Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai on a visit to Beijing in 1971 to prepare for US-China diplomatic rapprochement. Kissinger told Zhou that the US forces deployed in Japan were “actually a restraint on Japan.”
In this article Kissinger clearly represented the voice of the Chinese government. I can easily imagine him offering similar advice when he met Trump last month.
It is not difficult to speculate on how invaluable Kissinger must be to the Chinese government as a distinguished and influential friend. In point of fact, Kissinger was in London last June delivering a speech attesting to his favorable views on China at the Margaret Thatcher Conference on Security.
Worse-Case Scenario for Japan
Praising the former prime minister as a prescient strategist, Kissinger in his opening address likened Xi Jinping to the great early 20st century British strategist Halford Mackinder. He also praised Xi for shifting “the world’s center of gravity from the Atlantic to the Eurasian landmass” with his “Belt and Road Initiative.”
Kissinger spoke effusively about China, which he described as “at once an ancient civilization, a state, an empire, and a globalized economy” transforming the world hitherto dependent on old Western philosophy and order into a new world.
“This evolution will mark the third transformation of China in the last half century,” noted Kissinger. “Mao’s brought unity, Deng’s brought reform, and now, President Xi Jinping is seeking to fulfill what he calls ‘the Chinese dream’…by realizing ‘the two 100s.’”
By this Kissinger meant the year 2012—the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CCP—and 2049, when the People’s Republic will mark the centennial of its founding. Xi has emphasized that by experiencing “the two 100s,” China will be “as powerful as, if not more powerful than, any other society in the world and have the per capita GDP of fully develop countries.”
Xi’s assertions about the future of China, which he expounded on tirelessly during his three-and-half-hour opening address, overlap snugly with Kissinger’s remarks in London. It is notable that Kissinger made these remarks last June—at least four months ahead of Xi.
Xi’s October 18 address was in essence previewed by Kissinger, who had obviously had ample opportunities to be informed of Xi’s philosophy as regards China’s future.
Tadae Takubo, an international affairs expert and Deputy Director of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, a privately financed conservative think tank that I head, had this to say about Kissinger:
“The Xi regime and Kissinger are in essence one and the same. Invited to the White House just as Trump was contemplating his Asian policy, he must have bent the president ear with his take on the region. If the North Korean situation evolves as Kissinger envisions it, there will likely never be a military confrontation between the US and China. Meanwhile, Japan will be left behind with no leverage whatsoever over the medium and long term, including return of Japanese victims of North Korean abduction. That would be the worst-case scenario for Japan.”
What then can Japan—a modern democracy incapable of protecting its land and its people—do going forward? There is only one road to take, and that is for Japan to regain the spirit of the truly sovereign nation that it once was and implement a revision of its present pacifist constitution as soon as possible. It may just be too late, but we must still nonetheless make our best efforts. We have no other choice. This is the imperative mission of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe now that his party has scored a landslide victory in the lower house election.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 777 in the November 9, 2017 issue of The Weekly Shincho)