The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been ramping up its military spending to meet its stated goal of replacing the United States as the world’s preeminent superpower. Many who seek to minimize the risk compare actual dollars spent on defense in hopes of proving the risk that China poses is minimal. But the truth is, once you adjust for the cost of things, China is approaching parity with the U.S. For example, the pay for military personnel in the U.S. is 16 times higher than in China.* Yet, China’s armed forces are approximately 2.2 million, whereas the US armed forces are only 1.4 million — roughly equal with North Korea in terms of manpower.
Moreover, China has long been engaged in high-tech espionage and steals a great deal of the latest and greatest technology from the US. We have foolishly allowed their spies — posing as students or business and cultural exchanges to gain access to our technology. So we spend billions developing new technology and the Chinese regime spends comparative chump change to steal it. These cost savings allow China to spend less, while building up its military more. This is one of the reasons China now has the worlds’ largest navy with over 360 ships — dwarfing the U.S. fleet of 297 ships.
China is also clearly seeking to exploit for its advantage the recent change in administrations. President Joe Biden has long been comparatively conciliatory toward the communist regime and has often downplayed the risks China poses. Moreover, Biden’s son, Hunter, has highly lucrative business dealings with major Chinese firms with strong ties to the Chinese Communist Party — that’s how business works in China. Even if there is nothing illegal about Hunter’s business dealings, it creates a troubling conflict of interest for the White House.
It is clearly not in the interests of the U.S. to downplay the risks and pretend that China’s threat isn’t real. And China isn’t just a threat to the U.S., they are a threat to the entire world. They don’t intend to simply be a major economic and military power. They mean to rule and dominate the world with an iron fist.
If you don’t believe me, look at how China deals with those it perceives to be dissidents. Look at how it treats Hong Kong. Look at how Chinese health officials who warned of the COVID-19 virus were punished or mysteriously disappeared. Look at the death camps and “re-education camps” and how China tortures, murders and rapes the Uyghurs and other “dissidents.” If China achieves its stated goal of control and domination, it will be a brutal reign of terror and oppression.
Beyond raw military power, China also seeks economic supremacy. World shipping is an interesting case study where China seeks to dominate and is well on its way. The global trade fleet is about 41,000 ships. China builds about 1,300 new ships each year. The U.S. builds only 8. China is now the dominant player in ship building and in owning and operating and controlling ports around the globe.
The good news is that China does not, and cannot, dominate U.S. domestic shipping because the Jones Act stands in their way by requiring that ships used to transport goods between two or more American ports, must be American ships with American crews.
The Jones Act was passed shortly after World War I to ensure that the U.S. had sufficient shipping capacity, trained mariners, and a ship building and ship repairing capability necessary for our national security needs. But in the 21st Century, the Jones Act turns out to be a big help in stopping China’s attempts to dominate U.S. domestic shipping.
Imagine if there were no Jones Act, and China could simply underbid the competition and gain an economic stranglehold on the U.S. and even world shipping markets. Also imagine Chinese ships sailing up and down the 25,000 miles of inland water ways in America with spies and high tech spy equipment intercepting communications at will.
After being caught unprepared for WWI, the Jones Act seemed pretty necessary in 1920. But 101 years later in 2021, the Jones Act is even more necessary as one of many important ways America must stand up to the PRC and say, “Your oppression, aggression, and brutal domination are not welcome here!” The Jones Act may not have been written with China in mind, but it is exactly what we need to prevent their expansionism into America’s inland waterways.
Congressional GOP urges Pentagon to ditch radical politics in training materials
Troubled by an influx of critical race theory into the military, a coalition of veterans and congressional Republicans are demanding the Pentagon stop placating left-wing activists and focus on national defense.
A July 2020 film by the United States Air Force Academy football team endorsing Black Lives Matter and “antiracism” education prompted retired Lt. Gen. Rod Bishop to speak out against the school’s administrators. Military academies, the 34-year Air Force veteran said, should remain politically neutral, particularly at a time when Black Lives Matter protests have led to riots and violence throughout major cities across the country.
“Rather than e pluribus unum, rather than teamwork, rather than cohesion, we’re being taught an ideology which seeks to divide us based on the color of our skin,” Bishop told the Washington Free Beacon. “I’ve flown into combat zones. It didn’t matter if my copilot was black or not. How are we better for teaching all the elements of critical race theory?”
Bishop’s complaints were ignored by academy leadership. They heard similar stories from veterans at other schools and bases. Cadets spoke about running into books by Malcolm X and other radicals in a new “Diversity and Inclusion Reading Room” at the school, which did not return a request for comment. That experience led Bishop and Scott to start an advocacy group called Stand Together Against Racism and Radicalism in the Services. In under a year, STARRS boasts a membership into the hundreds, including dozens of officers and retired military officials.
“There’s a culture of fear within the military now,” Bishop said. “On the one hand, it’s okay to cheer on Black Lives Matter [on a military base], but if you speak out against this Marxist ideology you’ll be relieved of your duties. Ask yourself, ‘Is this what China and Russia are concerned about?'”
Many Republicans in Congress share similar objections to the injection of radical ideologies into the armed forces. On Wednesday, 30 of them called on Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to “take action to fight back against the creeping left-wing extremism in the U.S. military.” Republicans in the House and Senate expressed alarm at the firing of U.S. Space Force Lt. Colonel Matthew Lohmeier, who criticized the “neo-Marxist” agenda infiltrating the military. House Republicans are demanding the military change course from its focus on diversity. With a growing threat from China, they argue, the military must remain focused on winning wars rather than appeasing fringe left-wing activists.
“The military’s long history of standing above politics has made it one of the most respected institutions in America and enabled our armed forces to both defend the Homeland and serve as one of the bulwarks of our constitutional order,” wrote Rep. Matt Rosendale (R., Mont.). “That legacy is now in jeopardy.”
The Pentagon did not respond to a request for comment.
Announcements from senior Biden administration officials about new programs to crack down on right-wing extremism within its ranks have sparked outrage from Republicans. During his confirmation hearings in January, Austin told the Senate that the Pentagon’s job is to “keep America safe from our enemies. But we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks.”
Rep. Randy Weber (R., Texas), who signed the letter to Austin, said the imposition of critical race theory from top military brass is more damaging than the social media posts of individual soldiers. He called on other members of the military and the public to speak out and pressure the Pentagon.
“Patriotic Americans cannot stand idly by watching the politicization of our armed forces. George Washington—first a general, then a president—relinquished his commission before entering office,” Weber wrote. “A truly visionary leader, he recognized the perils of a politically-biased military. Our men and women in uniform are not lab rats in a social science experiment.”
Whether due to the COVID-19 pandemic that began in Wuhan, China, or thanks to Beijing’s increasingly intimidating, if not aggressive, behavior in recent years, one of the more dramatic shifts in global opinion has started a long-overdue reconsideration of the liberal world’s relationship to the People’s Republic of China. In addition to a raft of high-level policy statements from the Trump administration, including the 2017 National Security Strategy, the 2019 Department of Defense Indo-Pacific Strategy report, and the 2020 “United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China,” a number of independent reports have been tracking Beijing’s predatory and threatening policies, whether in economics, security, or civil society. After decades of turning the other cheek to Beijing’s abuse of the free world’s open societies, all in order to maintain trade relations that themselves were turning increasingly one-sided, liberal states have begun the process of recalibrating their ties to China.
This is no easy task for America or other states, after nearly a half-century of engagement. How to reduce supply chain vulnerability without crashing current manufacturing models, how to support Taiwan and Hong Kong in the face of Beijing’s aggressive actions, whether to keep admitting hundreds of thousands of Chinese students to American universities, how to keep doing business with Chinese firms while defending rampant theft of intellectual property, the “to do” list goes on and on. The difficulty is a testament to just how thoroughly the post-Mao PRC intertwined itself with free economies and societies around the world, while at the same time resisting much, if not all, pressure to liberalize in turn. Despite decades of optimistic comments from Western leaders, including U.S. presidents, China under current Chinese Communist Party (CCP) general secretary Xi Jinping has become an even more repressive and insular state, committed to the Leninist control by the CCP, and steadfastly opposed to liberal notions of free speech and free association. The PRC’s techno-authoritarian surveillance state has taken the world’s leading technologies, many originated in Western research institutes and universities, and twisted them into a comprehensive network of social control. Western businesses, media, universities, and the like have all submitted to Beijing’s pressure, self-censuring and apologizing for remarks critical of the PRC.
The great question facing the free world is how to deal with the PRC in this new era of competition. One answer is provided in a new “handbook” for democracies, published this week by the Halifax International Security Forum (HFX) to coincide with its annual conference. The handbook, entitled “China Vs. Democracy: The Greatest Game,” is a primer on how the PRC threatens the open global society that is the source for most of its own wealth and power (full disclosure: I am the senior advisor for Asia at HFX, and was part of the team that produced the handbook). Divided into chapters that look at the CCP’s oppression inside China, influence campaigns against democracies, the battle over global economic domination, the race for technological supremacy, and the military competition that may determine war or peace, the handbook is one of the first comprehensive attempts to chart the broad China challenge.
As the handbook notes, this is not the competition, or tension, that the liberal world wanted or expected when it opened its doors to Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and his reform plans back in the 1970s. Betting on China made sense during the Cold War and in light of what appeared to be legitimate reform inside China. The failure of Washington and its allies to conduct due diligence over the succeeding decades, questioning whether Beijing was living up to its promises and was becoming a cooperative nation upholding international norms, gave the CCP a free hand to build up its global power while eliminating any threats to its continued control. By the end of the Obama administration, the severity of the challenge could no longer be ignored or explained away as the result of a China still attempting to find its way in the world.
Yet, it is in the hands of democracies to deal with the China challenge in a way that not only protects their interests, but also may one day help the people of China. As HFX president Peter Van Praagh, who initiated the project, notes in his introduction:
Working in concert, the world’s democracies have overwhelming advantages that China cannot meet. The challenge is no longer about trying to cooperate with a rising China governed by autocrats. The real China challenge for the world’s democracies is how to cooperate effectively with each other.
Indeed, that theme of the HFX China Handbook — democratic cooperation — is one increasingly echoed by other Western reports and studies on China. Despite the disruptions of 2020, from pandemic to elections, liberal societies and free states remain stronger and yes, more peaceful, than their authoritarian counterparts. Their politics may be messier and often inefficient, but they remain laboratories of innovation and magnets for those fleeing repressive systems. They remain more committed to equality and the long-term improvement of their governing mechanisms than states run by unelected oligarchs. More pertinently, democracies may find a renewed appreciation for the moral worth of their systems by working together to defend common interests, whether economic, social, or security, against a PRC that seeks to subvert liberal norms and make the world safe for autocracy.
Perhaps the most innovative part of the handbook is the “HFX China Principles,” a set of seven pledges to not be complicit in Beijing’s assault on democracy. The Principles include a pledge not to censor or self-censor criticism of China, not to punish those who critique the PRC, not to support Chinese businesses that participate in the oppression of the Chinese people, and not knowingly to patronize businesses that benefit from Chinese slave labor. Public pledges to adhere to the China Principles by governments, multinational corporations, universities, media companies, and ordinary citizens would be a beginning in right-sizing the world’s relations with the PRC, giving hope to those in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, and bolstering democratic states in Asia, from the Philippines to Japan. As a form of thinking globally and acting locally, the Principles may give the free world the confidence to begin defending itself against the China challenge.
China has a plan to overtake the USA with a fused effort that combines trade with military expansion, as described in a new Pentagon report. It shows how China’s vaunted “One Belt, One Road” plan to build infrastructure worldwide is used for military advantage along with economic benefits.
Many signs show that China’s plan to overtake the U.S. is working. Sadly, most American media ignore this. Also sad is that some U.S. businesses would let China expand within our own borders, pushing out American companies from delivering goods domestically.
China’s navy is now larger than America’s, reports our Department of Defense. And China’s fleet of merchant vessels is larger by far.
The Chinese economy has grown to become second only to the U.S.—and it’s gaining on us. Some reports say China has already passed us in productivity. Other studies show China conducts significantly more world trade than America.
A Financial Times survey found that “China rules the waves.” Forbes reports that the United States has become “ridiculously dependent” on goods from China. The American Enterprise Institute pronounces “We’re too dependent on China for too many critical goods.”
A new report by the Center for International and Strategic Studies finds China “[dominates] the entire global maritime supply chain, [controls] the world’s second-largest shipping fleet . . . and [constructs] over a third of the world’s vessels” while also “producing 96% of the world’s shipping containers . . . and own[s] seven of the ten busiest ports in the world.”
China for years has been on what Forbes describes as a “seaport shopping spree . . . buying up the world’s ports” on every continent save Antarctica. The rationale is explained in the Pentagon’s brand-new paper, “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China.” It paints a fascinating picture of how China’s worldwide “One Belt, One Road” initiative is being used not only to benefit China’s seagoing trade, but also to establish footholds with great military value.
The new Defense Department report explains the dual nature of One Belt, One Road, which seeks to “fuse” trade and military purposes: “cultivating talent and blending military and civilian expertise and knowledge; building military requirements into civilian infrastructure and leveraging civilian construction for military purposes; and leveraging civilian service and logistics capabilities for military purposes.”
Estimates are that China is spending at least $150-billion each year on acquiring civil-military footholds at major chokepoints of world trade. Then they can attempt to deny passage by other nations, much as they now seek to do in the South China Sea.
So why would anybody invite China to expand its control into the domestic waters of the United States? Just as other nations have been paid handsomely to let China take over their shipping facilities, some American businesses believe they can save money by letting other countries (including government-subsidized Chinese entities) to transport goods between destinations within the United States.
Current U.S. law, known as the Jones Act, prohibits shipping goods or passengers between American ports (or along our rivers and canals) unless the vessel is built, owned and crewed by Americans. Those pushing to repeal the Jones Act would allow China to expand its power grab to extend into America’s borders.
And the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, recently pronounced China as a greater national security threat to the United States than any other nation, including working to influence and interfere in our elections.
The Frontiers of Freedom Foundation has a free paper online that explains the details of China’s plans to rule the waves. Even though major media refuse to sound the alarm about China’s ambitions, Americans can wake each other up and should start doing just that.
Everyone knows that goods made in China have a massive hold on what Americans buy. Now China wants the world to be dependent on them for how things are delivered, as well as how they are made.
The closest parallel is the explosive growth of Amazon, with its mastery of logistics to dominate delivery as well as dominating sales.
FedEx once owned the slogan, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” Jeff Bezos studied, learned and prepared, then ended Amazon’s partnership with FedEx so that we now associate quick delivery with Amazon, which has built a fleet of jets and 60,000 delivery trucks (plus 100,000 more on order). This has made Bezos the richest man in the world.
China meanwhile would like its Communist system to replace the United States as the richest economy in the world and dominating delivery is its new objective. Rather than trucks and airplanes, they’ve realized that 90 percent of global trade moves by ship and that is where they have shifted their focus.
The Chinese have a worldwide plan to take control of the logistics of global trade as part of their mega-billion Belt and Road Initiative and to push aside competitors in the process. In 2013, President Xi Jinping announced the initiative that now involves acquiring road, rail and maritime infrastructure in 138 countries, including ports on every continent except Antarctica, facilities at both ends of the Panama and Suez Canals and control of other global chokepoints.
To describe how “How China Rules the Waves,” The Financial Times listed scores of global ports where China has paid tens of billions to buy control. A headline in Forbes warned, “China’s Seaport Shopping Spree: What China Is Winning By Buying Up The World’s Ports.” And a new report by the bipartisan Center for Strategic & International Studies states it as follows:
Chinese companies are increasingly dominant across the entire global maritime supply chain, controlling the world’s second-largest shipping fleet by gross tons and constructing over a third of the world’s vessels in 2019.
They also produce 96 percent of the world’s shipping containers . . . and own seven of the ten busiest ports in the world . . . [with] state-owned China Merchant Group the largest port and logistics company in the world.
In short, America is being pushed out of trade on the high seas. Only 182 American ships are among the 41,000 ocean-going cargo ships today. Of 2,900 such ships now under construction, the U.S. is only building eight. China is building 1,291.
Incredibly, some now propose that we allow China to take over our domestic water routes as well. Fortunately, we still control our domestic waters – our coastlines, rivers, harbors and the Great Lakes – where 40,000 vessels handle U.S. internal trade. China cannot barge in thanks to the Jones Act, a 100-year-old law requiring domestic shipping to use vessels that are American-built, -owned, and -crewed.
Yet some groups clamor to repeal the Jones Act, saying we can get cheaper prices if we invite in other countries like China. If they succeeded, then the next proposal might be to change our laws that won’t let foreign airlines take over domestic air travel. (They can only connect between a foreign city and an American city). After that, they might ask that foreign trucks be permitted to deliver goods into our heartland and not just to border areas. To these advocates, national security and the national interest is a non-factor – it’s only about “saving money.”
Why can China undercut costs? It uses a different system of values. Hidden government subsidies, slave labor, having their People’s Liberation Army operate supposedly-private enterprises, industrial espionage, disregard for intellectual property rights, far fewer government regulations of labor, public safety, and environment, and of course human rights violations and suppression of free speech like in Hong Kong and Tiananmen Square. As China enters a new phase – not only to make us dependent on their products but also to depend on them to transport and deliver our needs – we must be careful not to let them take advantage of us.
Yet this is forgiven by some policy experts who treat it like laissez faire economics, rather than acknowledging that it is not a free market but part of China’s government-run plan. After all, if only money matters and not American values, we can ignore whether foreign powers gain control over us, whether it be China, Russia or any other nation.
A Frontiers of Freedom white paper I recently authored provides a more detailed warning of this issue, but the core message is simple: money isn’t everything. Our national security is also important, both to protect America’s values and to guard against the continuing viral growth of China’s plan.
Chinese propaganda outlet continues daily delivery to Congress
Republicans are challenging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) to stop the distribution of Chinese propaganda on Capitol Hill, according to a letter exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), a member of the GOP-led China task force, has petitioned the Department of Justice and congressional employees to stop China Daily, a Chinese Communist Party-controlled propaganda outlet, from delivering its papers to the Capitol every morning. Now Banks and four other House Republicans are taking the issue to the very top of House leadership, asking for Pelosi to intervene.
“I assume you are just as outraged as I am by the presence of such disgusting lies in our nation’s legislature,” the letter to the House speaker reads. “This is an opportunity for you to … prove to voters the Democrat Party also takes the China threat seriously. It’s time for you to end the proliferation of Chinese-state propaganda in the United States’ Congress.”
The letter comes at a time of mounting scrutiny of the activities of Chinese propaganda outlets in the United States. In February, the Chinese government kicked out U.S. journalists reporting on the coronavirus outbreak, prompting the Trump administration to designate Chinese propaganda outlets, including China Daily, as “foreign missions” and demand that they drastically reduce their staff. The new designation requires the outlets to follow the same administrative requirements as embassies and consulates. After China retaliated by expelling even more journalists, the White House required several more Chinese outlets to comply with the regulation on Monday.
China Daily has delivered its papers to the doorsteps of many congressional offices for years now, disseminating a consistently pro-CCP and anti-American viewpoint to hundreds of members of Congress and their staffers. The outlet, for example, has capitalized on recent unrest in American cities stemming from the death of George Floyd to deflect from its own human rights abuses in Hong Kong.
Pelosi’s office did not respond to a request for comments.
China Daily has distributed propaganda in the United States since 1983, according to federal disclosures filed with the Department of Justice. The disclosures also show that the Chinese government funneled millions of dollars to the mouthpiece, which then used that money to purchase more than 500 pages of advertorials—propaganda articles meant to look like legitimate news items—in the pages of the New York Times, Washington Post, and other major news outlets. Banks and 34 other members of Congress previously demanded a Justice Department probe into the matter, citing a Free Beacon report that found the paper has failed to comply with federal disclosure requirements for decades.
“There is no question the United States is facing a set of unique challenges right now,” the letter to Pelosi read. “As we’d expect, our adversaries are trying to take advantage of the moment to undermine America’s global leadership. Perhaps no one is seizing the moment more than China.”ADVERTISING
Banks has repeatedly demanded an end to the circulation of the propaganda outlet, first raising the issue to Philip Kiko, Congress’s chief administrative officer, and the Department of Justice in September. After Kiko told Banks that the issue was outside his jurisdiction, the congressman then asked the Committee on House Administration to stop the paper’s distribution in December. According to the letter, however, Banks’s petition to the committee fell on deaf ears, prompting the legislators to take the matter to Pelosi.
“I sent letters to Congress’s Chief Administrative Officer and to the Chairperson and Ranking Member of the Committee on House Administration asking for help,” the letter says. “Unfortunately, I didn’t receive any; so, I’m turning to you as Speaker of the House. I ask you: How is Chinese propaganda arriving on my doorstep each morning when the Capitol is closed to the public? And what are you going to do about it?”
The Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment about the status of Banks’s request.
Rep. Greg Steube (R., Fla.), a signatory of the letter, said that Pelosi and House Democrats must stop the distribution of the propaganda in their own backyards if they want to show that they are serious about the threat posed by the Chinese government.
“Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats clearly do not take the threats from China seriously if they allow CCP propaganda to circulate the halls of Congress,” he said. “This is weakness, not leadership at a time when we desperately need to hold China accountable for their role in spreading a global pandemic and widespread economic hardship.”
U.N. reprimands Tehran amid ongoing nuclear ramp-up, development of missiles
Iran engaged in covert nuclear work that breached international accords as recently as 2019, according to nuclear inspectors who have been blocked from accessing these contested military sites.
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors officially reprimanded Iran on Friday for denying inspectors access to at least two sites now known to have been part of Tehran’s secretive atomic weapons program.
The two locations have remained off limits to the IAEA despite evidence they were used for illicit nuclear operations in the last year. At least one of these sites contained a secret high-explosives testing site that could have been used to advance Tehran’s nuclear know-how.
The resolution was forwarded by France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, all of which are still party to the nuclear accord with Tehran. While these nations have sought to preserve the accord, their willingness to publicly reprimand Iran is a new sign of mounting frustration with the country’s behavior. In addition to blocking IAEA access, Iran has ramped up its development of advanced missiles and enrichment of uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon, to levels needed for a bomb.
The resolution highlights what these nations described as a “continued lack of clarification regarding Agency questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear related activities in Iran.”
The move was met with anger by Iranian officials, who said they will continue to block access until the international community offers greater concessions, particularly relief from biting economic sanctions that have crippled the country’s economy.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran’s behavior is proof that it continues to lie to the world about its development of nuclear arms and has no intention of curtailing its nuclear program.
“Iran’s denial of access to IAEA inspectors and refusal to cooperate with the IAEA’s investigation is deeply troubling and raises serious questions about what Iran is trying to hide,” Pompeo said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Iranian military leaders announced on Thursday the successful test-firing of both short- and long-range cruise missiles, which could be used in a conflict with the United States and allied partners operating in the region. The firing of these missiles runs counter to United Nations restrictions on Iran’s missile program.
The tests were conducted in the Indian Ocean and Sea of Oman, according to reports from Iran’s state-controlled media. Tehran claims the military operation was “more sophisticated” and “more difficult” than previous drills.
The launch marks a significant escalation in Tehran’s ongoing standoff with U.S. military vessels operating in the region. Iranian military boats have routinely harassed American ships and sought to choke off access to key shipping lanes in international waters. The display of new cruise missiles is a warning to the United States that the Iranian regime is ready for a military confrontation.
A United Nations embargo on Iran’s purchase of advanced weaponry is set to lift later this year. If the United States fails to extend the ban, nations will be able to legally sell Iran missiles and other offensive weapons. The Trump administration is currently pressing its allies at the U.N. to extend this embargo, though these efforts are likely to be blocked by Russia and China, Tehran’s top patrons.
If the arms embargo lapses, the United States is likely to push for a so-called snapback, the reimposition of all international sanctions that were lifted as part of the nuclear deal.
An Iran analyst said Tehran’s latest moves are a ploy to stave off international scrutiny.
“All eyes should be on Iran now to see how it will make good on its threats which were intended to scare and prevent the vote on this critical [IAEA] resolution,” said Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a hawkish think-tank with close ties to the Trump administration. “Tehran often uses such flashpoints to incrementally ratchet up the pressure through expansion of its nuclear program.”
Ben Taleblu said that nations such as France, Germany, and the U.K. will have to get tougher on Iran if they want to change its behavior. Although they backed the IAEA’s latest censure, these nations also have worked to block the reimposition of major sanctions on Tehran.
Legislation would boost public-private partnership, cut regulations
The United States is falling behind China when it comes to emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing, according to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.), who told the Washington Free Beaconshe is working on a package of legislative measures that would boost public-private partnerships to ensure the United States does not lose its competitive edge in these markets.
As China invests $1.4 trillion over the next five years to dominate the field of cutting-edge technologies, the United States must create its own plan to foster innovation in this area, McMorris Rodgers said. Her plan, which is garnering support among House Republicans, would increase federal research into new technologies and remove much of the bureaucratic red tape currently restraining the private sector. While the United States cannot compete by throwing money at the problem, it can eliminate many of the restrictions that have prevented the federal government from partnering with private tech startups already making inroads into these technologies.
“We will never outspend them, we will never out-subsidize these industries like the Chinese government plans to do,” McMorris Rodgers, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told the Free Beacon.
Instead, Republicans aim to level the playing field with an unprecedented legislative package comprised of 15 bills that would force the federal government to identify the areas where it is lagging behind China and work with the private sector to spur growth. This includes beefing up American investments into A.I., facial recognition technology, blockchains, quantum computing, and unmanned delivery services—all areas where China is outpacing the United States due to massive investments.
The legislative package is one of the largest and most comprehensive currently circulating on Capitol Hill. It is part of a larger push by Republican members in the House and Senate to combat China’s massive investment in cutting edge tech at a time when the world is becoming increasingly dependent on the communist regime.
The private sector has become more attractive to the federal government as bloated budgets and bureaucratic regulations slow its foray into a range of fields. These types of partnerships proved successful during the weekend when the United States launched its first man-based mission into space in nearly a decade. NASA partnered with tech billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX to make that mission a reality.
Some Democrats, however, have already balked at the GOP plan, citing concerns about privacy and the potential for civil rights abuses by government authorities. They maintain that these technologies could be used for unethical purposes—much in the way China has used them to solidify its police state and spy on dissidents. If the GOP does not find a way to compromise with its colleagues in the Democrat-controlled House, the bills could be dead on arrival.
Nine of the bills included in the GOP package identify new fields of research where the federal government can help spur private-sector innovation. They include A.I., 3D printing, facial recognition technology, and other new technologies still in development. All of the bills would require the Federal Trade Commission and Commerce Department to identify roadblocks preventing innovation in these fields and then create a plan to reduce bureaucratic challenges, such as restrictions on interstate commerce.
Another set of bills seeks to create protections for sensitive U.S. data to ensure the Chinese government does not intercept them, which comes on the heels of reports about China’s efforts to steal sensitive U.S. research and infiltrate the American academic system.
Other legislative efforts would require the federal government to assess its partnerships with tech startups and other smaller private businesses focusing on fields of interest.
McMorris Rodgers said the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated concerns about China’s influence on the global stage, exposing the United States’ weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
Republican lawmakers also want the United States to directly combat China’s weaponization of new technologies that allow it to promote misinformation. One of the bills in the legislative package directs the Federal Trade Commission to determine how A.I. can be used to combat propaganda, such as deepfakes—videos altered to make it appear as if people are saying and doing things they are not.
By Defense News•
Those who plan for our nation’s defense are often under pressure because of questionable spending decisions made in the past. Money wasted or misspent by lawmakers in Washington increases pressure to slash funding needed for our nation’s defense. Our war fighters should never lack the tools they need because national leaders make poor decisions. Our leaders must ensure our military has what it needs to defend America today, tomorrow and for generations to come.
Our war fighters are expected to defend us against current risks and dangers, and at the same time be prepared for future perils and upgrade our defensive capabilities. But when budgets are tight, we pit current security needs against future security needs. That is dangerous.
We see this playing out now with our nation’s military aircraft. We have a shortage of wings and reduced readiness because for decades we have been using up planes faster than we’ve been replacing them. Next year’s budget reveals that the Pentagon is planning to add zero F-18s to replace older planes that can no longer fly. Thus, the plane shortage will simply get worse while we wait for at least a decade for a new plane to be developed and roll off production lines. And it may be a lot longer because challenges and delays in high-tech development are difficult to predict.
Moreover, as planes get older, they cost more to operate and eventually become unsafe to fly without a major overhaul, which can be staggeringly expensive. Because we’ve allowed our fighter fleet to age, we are at a point where immediate action is necessary. Deciding to buy fewer F-18s than our Navy needs means that the current shortage of wings will only get worse. It will also weaken our capabilities for at least a decade. This is simply too great a risk!
Imagine that you wanted to upgrade your health insurance. Would you cancel your current policy to “save” money so that in 10 years you could afford a more robust health plan? Of course not. The risk exposure would be too great. Similarly, forcing the military to endure aircraft shortages for a decade creates unacceptable risks to our nation’s security.
Our military must continue developing effective and modernized tools for our war fighters. Our adversaries are working overtime to surpass us, and we cannot permit that to happen. But we also cannot afford to leave a 10-year gap in aerial defense and create a large window of opportunity for adversarial nations to seize on our weaknesses.
China has been frantically building a blue water navy that is larger than our own. They have nuclear submarines and missile technology, and have bragged of their future capacity to attack and defeat the United States. Suspending procurement of the aircraft we need over the next decade makes us increasingly vulnerable. There is simply no way to justify that, no matter how bleak the Pentagon’s ledger.
Our enemies are dedicated to finding and exploiting any weakness in our defenses. By forgoing new F-18s, we are shining a spotlight on a significant weakness. This is irresponsible and dangerous. China’s leadership is surely cheering that budget plan in Beijing.
The F-18 isn’t simply a time-tested and proven fighter. The current F-18 has incorporated some of the most advanced technologies — more rapidly in some cases than our latest high-tech F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The F-18’s new, low-drag, conformal fuel tanks allow it to fly faster, farther, stay on target longer and sustain a heavier payload, including an impressive array of advanced weapons. It employs next-generation radars, electronic warfare technology, jammers, and computing power and data availability to improve situational awareness and give war fighters the advantage in every confrontation.
Its long-range counter-stealth capability allows it to see the enemy while remaining virtually invisible. As heavyweight boxing legend Muhammad Ali said of rival George Foreman: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hand can’t hit what his eyes can’t see.”
Most importantly, the F-18’s airframe has been improved to almost double its serviceable lifetime at 10,000 hours — making it both mission- and cost-effective.
Simultaneously investing in the F-18 Super Hornet while developing next-generation aircraft is the only way to ensure security now and in the future. It sends a clear message to our adversaries that not only are we strong today, but we’re committed to strengthening our defense for generations to come. Continuing procurement of the F-18 also helps to keep defense budgets under control, allowing our pilots to perform missions and train at lower taxpayer cost.
By cutting funding for the F-18, the Pentagon is gambling with national security. Congress and the administration need to step up and ensure that our military is sufficiently equipped to keep America strong today and long into the future. Anything less is unacceptable.
If we’ve learned anything from the COVID-19 virus, it is that dependence on the Communist country is dangerous. For example, the Chinese authorities stopped a ship in transit filled with paid-for medical supplies at a strategic moment, hoping to hold us hostage. The Communist regime mixes all Chinese businesses with its military objectives using economics, trade and a growing dominance in the high-tech world to make their power and military might in the world greater.
That party has even bragged of its future capacity to attack and defeat the United States during an international pandemic. We must understand therefore that China isn’t merely a trading partner, it is also a dangerous international enemy. In response, we must always maintain a strong military. That is obvious. But what may not be quite so obvious, but every bit as important:
We must maintain our high-tech advantages and not make ourselves dependent upon a hostile power.
The Trump administration has been aware of these risks and has taken steps to stop China’s high-tech adventurism.
The administration recently enacted restrictions on Chinese tech company Huawei, which is infamous for placing backdoors in their chips so that the communist regime has control over any device with Huawei chipsets. This alone should make it clear the U.S. can never allow itself to become dependent upon China for its technology. Imagine American fighter jets, radars and missile defense that would work only if the communist regime in China decided not to switch them off.
This is why it seemed to be good news when the world’s third-largest chip maker, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), and the Trump administration recently announced TSMC’s plans to build a large chip manufacturing facility in Arizona, bringing in over 1,600 good-paying high-tech jobs. It also puts a major chip manufacturing facility on U.S. soil.
If we look more deeply into the details though, there is lot that needs to be improved if this deal is to truly advance America’s economic and security interests.
First, the deal would build a factory that when complete will be building yesterday’s chip sets. The factory is currently planned to make 5 nanometer chips. But the next generation 3 nanometer chips are just a few years off. Given that the factory won’t be fully complete until 2030, it should be built to manufacture the highest tech chips — not ones that will be a generation behind by then. The 5 nanometer chips may still be used widely in consumer electronics in the future, but they won’t be the most powerful, efficient and capable chip sets needed for the most demanding applications.
Bottom line: We won’t be getting a facility capable of manufacturing the highest tech chip sets that will be needed in the future. However, TSMC is updating some of its facilities in Asia to build these next generation 3 nanometer chipsets. So we should insist that if we’re going to build a chip factory in the U.S., it must be a top of the line, high-tech factory — not yesterday’s tech.
The planned factory would also have a relatively low monthly output capacity. Other TSMC factories can produce more than five times the monthly capacity of the proposed U.S. factory. If the planned factory is too small to truly act as a counterweight to China’s plans or to make us truly independent of China’s high-tech tentacles, it doesn’t actually do that much to make America stronger or safer. We should insist therefore that the factory capacity be expanded to make it a true counter-balance to China’s aims.
Here is a solution to all of these concerns — the U.S. requires TSMC as a condition of the deal to form a joint venture with an American firm. It could increase the available funding to build a factory capable of manufacturing the latest and greatest and most powerful chipsets. Moreover, it would allow the factory to be built bigger so that its monthly capacity qualifies it as a true, cutting edge “Gigafab” facility. And finally, a joint venture with an American firm would insulate the venture from China’s active efforts to co-opt strategic businesses and thereby make America and others dependent or at risk to China’s designs.
The Trump administration is smart to build positive relationships that strengthen America and reduce our dependence upon China. But the details matter, and the deal with TSMC needs some serious improvement if it is to truly end our dependence on high tech semiconductors that are within China’s orbit. The last 30 years have been disastrous for American manufacturing. China has been the primary beneficiary of those wrong-headed policies, taxes and regulations that drove business overseas. Hopefully, the COVID-19 virus has woken us up to the malignancy of the communist regime and the risks of relying up on it for things that are fundamental to our security.
Technologies such as the Electromagnetic Launch System (EMALS) support the U.S. military
With the nation’s attention largely focused on the coronavirus, less noticed are threats to our national safety and security that are both long-running and evolving throughout the world — on land, sea, air, and increasingly in cyber and outer space. Losing sight of these threats would be a grave mistake.
Now more than ever, our nation’s leaders must double down on strengthening our military and embracing innovation to protect America and project power when necessary in an unstable, dangerous world. To do so effectively, it is critical that we invest in and equip our men and women in uniform with the most technologically advanced tools and weapons of war available.
Make no mistake, global competitors like China and Russia and rogue states like Iran and North Korea are working diligently to enhance their military capabilities in the hopes of eroding America’s competitive edge.
Fortunately, President Trump has made re-establishing our military strength and global position in the world a national priority after years of neglect during the Obama administration. He has insisted that while the Department of Defense pursues and invests in next-generation technologies, it must do so with taxpayers’ money in mind. And with a defense-wide review underway, expect even more fiscally-minded reforms to materialize over the next several years.
For example, the Ford-class aircraft carriers currently under production are poised to significantly expand our military capabilities, improve the quality of onboard life for our deployed sailors — and exploit the benefits of cutting-edge technologies. The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), the first of the Ford-class, returned to sea in January and has now completed aircraft compatibility testing, flight deck certification, and other critical milestones in making the carrier battle-ready.
Mr. Trump has paid keen attention to these new carriers — and he has continuously addressed costs associated with their production. In fact, earlier this year, the Trump administration doubled down on its commitment to the Ford-class by convening the “Make Ford Ready” summit to ensure CVN-78 meets its cost targets moving forward.
These modern carriers are equipped with the latest technologies that ensure our troops will be able to protect our nation at a moment’s notice, whether in the Strait of Hormuz or the South China Sea. They are faster, more lethal, more durable and more technologically advanced than any other carrier ever put to sea by any country. And one key advantage which will improve performance, save money and protect American lives (or take the enemy’s when needed) is the carrier’s electromagnetic launch system technology, which was conceived, developed and produced here in the U.S.
The Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System — EMALS — had its initial skeptics, Mr. Trump among them. But its subsequent performance has spoken for itself. Because the system replaces old, steam-based catapult systems developed in the 1950s, the carriers are able to launch the full complement of planes in the Navy’s air wing. This includes the critically important lightweight and heavyweight drones that are increasingly being used in reconnaissance and battlefield operations. And unlike incumbent catapult systems, EMALS is designed to accommodate future aircraft that come into production in the years ahead.
By replacing the complex and large system of steam pipes on the carriers, this new catapult system delivers a 25 percent reduction in the number of crew members needed to operate and maintain the system. The Navy has estimated this will amount to almost $4 billion in savings from operating costs over the ship’s expected 50-year lifespan. And in line with Mr. Trump’s commitment to establishing greater cost discipline for large DOD contracts, more cost savings have been realized through the negotiation of multiple ship production contracts for EMALS.
The second and third Ford-class carriers are already seeing 16 percent to 27 percent production cost savings respectively. Manufacturing, supply chains, production schedules and jobs are becoming stabilized. As the current crisis has put in stark relief, reliable supply chains are critical, and negotiated, multi-carrier contract buys ensure the stability of U.S. jobs and equipment. For taxpayers, this means significant cost savings without compromising our ability to deliver the most modern equipment available to support our warfighters.
Predictably, however, our competitors are now racing to develop similar technologies. For example, China has reportedly commissioned its own electromagnetic catapult system for its aircraft carriers to allow them to launch more advanced planes and other weaponry. Yet, with America’s new carrier class moving further into subsequent production phases, and our allies wanting to benefit from U.S. military innovations like EMALS, we now have a huge advantage that the United States can and should fully embrace to ensure our military supremacy. Any global competitor seeking similar technologies with ill intent will not go unchecked.
These types of cutting-edge and innovative investments are critical in rebuilding our nation’s military. They also are firmly aligned with Mr. Trump’s commitment to ensure that our military professionals receive far more technology at less long-term cost to taxpayers. Our nation cannot afford to fall behind.
Critics say ICC hijacked by radical anti-U.S., anti-Israel groups
The International Criminal Court is working alongside several organizations and individuals tied to terrorism as it seeks to prosecute American and Israeli personnel for war crimes, according to a new report out of Israel. The findings call into question the court’s integrity at a time when it is facing international backlash over its pursuit of politically motivated cases.
The report—from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), an Israel-based research group headed by a former adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—concludes that under the leadership of Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, the ICC collaborated with terror-tied groups to pursue charges against American and Israeli military officials it claims are guilty of committing war crimes against civilians, including in Afghanistan and Palestinian territories. The cases originated with complaints filed to the court by two nonprofit advocacy groups with ties to terrorism.
In its report, “How the ICC Has Been Weaponized Against the U.S. and Israel,” the JCPA details how two international nonprofit groups hijacked the ICC to ensure it targets the United States and Israel for prosecution on charges that both nations have called unwarranted. Researchers uncovered new information indicating that “radical NGOs, some of which are affiliated with terror organizations, collaborated in promoting the complaints against the U.S. and Israel.”
The findings are likely to stoke already mounting frustrations with the court in Congress and the Trump administration, which has repeatedly condemned the ICC’s pursuit of charges against American military personnel. The United States is not a party to the court and has vowed to defend itself against any legal action. Israel has adopted a similar stance on the court, which has repeatedly attempted to single out Jews for prosecution related to the country’s efforts to combat Palestinian terrorism.
“Any attempt by a renegade ICC to investigate U.S. personnel is illegitimate and unjustified,” State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus told the Washington Free Beacon.
The ICC’s case against the United States originated in complaints issued by two nonprofit advocacy groups—the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Both groups “are closely related to the Palestinian NGOs that brought the complaint against Israel to the ICC,” according to the JCPA’s report.
The NGOs—Al-Haq, Al-Dameer, Al Mezan, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)—”maintain strong ties to the designated terror organizations Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP),” according to a 2019 Israeli government investigation.
Further, the NGOs are tied to a network of anti-Israel activists who use the human rights community to push radical agendas at a range of international institutions, including the United Nations.
The organizations “are far from being human rights organizations as they have falsely represented themselves, as they maintain close ties to terror organizations designated by U.S. State Department and the European Union,” according to the JCPA.
The executive director of the Al-Haq group, Shawan Jabarin, “is a former senior operative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and has served multiple prison sentences for his terror-affiliated activity,” the report discloses. Major U.S. credit card companies shut down donations to Al-Haq due to its terrorism ties. Jabarin also serves as the secretary general for FIDH, the umbrella group helping the ICC pursue a case against America.
Al-Haq, the PCHR, and Al Mezan are all members of FIDH.
“Palestinian NGOs have similarly maintained close ties to the PFLP, Hamas, and other Palestinian terror groups,” according to the JCPA. “They have been active in working against U.S. policy in the Middle East, condemning the U.S. Administration’s declarations regarding the Golan Heights, Jerusalem, and the Jordan Valley.”
ICC chief prosecutor Bensouda has close ties with FIDH, the JCPA found. She visited FIDH’s Paris headquarters in 2015 and participated in the group’s 40th congress in 2019. FIDH says on its website that it has a “close relationship” with the ICC.
This has raised questions about Bensouda’s impartiality when it comes to cases that FIDH and its affiliates have promoted.
“The particularly close relationships between the accusing organizations in both cases reveal the politicized nature of these complaints,” according to the JCPA. “Moreover, the overlapping connections between the Palestinian NGOs and terror groups and between Bensouda and FIDH raise serious questions about objectivity and intent.”
The opportunity exists for the Trump administration to do something now about Nigeria that would lead to real progress in the fight against religious persecution and repeated violations of the rule of law, would help to root out corruption, and deal a significant blow to the Boko Haram terror group.
The lever available to the U.S. government to do this is $300 million in stolen monies soon to come under U.S. control currently frozen in British and Crown of Jersey accounts at America’s request. Nigeria wants it back and, before America acts, the pressure it’s applying to President Muhammadu Buhari for reforms needs to be stepped up.
If successful, it would be a big win. U.S. authorities should be dubious about transferring monies back to Nigeria’s control considering there’s a good chance it would be passed back to back to ruling-party officials who were complicit in the original theft. More than that, considering the longstanding corruption in the government of Africa’s most populous nation and the disturbing pattern of human rights abuses committed by Buhari’s regime, it’s not clear the U.S. should turn the money over at all unless and until real reforms are adopted.
Look at the record. According to the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, over the past two years, thousands of Nigerian Christians have been murdered. The European Parliamentrecently blasted the government over ongoing human rights violations. Amnesty International issued a condemnation over the use of “security agents and (the) judiciary as a tool for persecuting people who voice dissenting opinions.” Innocent reform advocates like Grace Taiga, a retired civil servant and practicing Christian, and opposition Senator Shehu Sani have been targeted by the regime and journalists critical of it like Omoyele Sowore has been jailed.
These actions and others led the U.S. government to put Nigeria on a special watch list. Washington must now use its leverage to demand change. Instead, under a plan worked out with Buhari, America may soon green-light the release of these funds back to Nigeria where, in a defeat for the cause of justice, it ultimately may be disbursed to local projects run by contractors with a questionable and corrupt history in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Rather than allow this, the U.S. government must push Buhari to end his government’s blatant disregard for the rule of law, institute real anti-corruption efforts, and stop the ongoing attacks on Christians and other religious minorities by Boko Haram and other groups.
That the decision on the disposition of the funds in question rests with Attorney General William P. Barr rather than the U.S. State Department of State is comforting. Barr is someone for whom, criticism from the left notwithstanding, the rule of law matters. And he’s shown he can swing the hammer hard when he wants to.
Before deciding what to do, Barr should look at a similar case involving the Justice Department, which is refusing to hand over $100 million in stolen, laundered money it says can be traced back to Atiku Bagudu, the current governor of Nigeria’s Kebbi State and a prominent member of Buhari’s ruling APC party. In recent U.S. court filings, Nigeria asserted a 17-year-old deal could lead to the funds being given directly back to Bagudu. Another agreement, made by Buhari’s people in October 2018 would transfer a sizeable portion of an investment portfolio worth $155 million to Bagudu if it ever again came under Nigeria’s control.
Any agreement regarding the repatriation of these stolen assets must be carefully weighed against the escalating human rights violations and the corruption that persists throughout Nigeria. A detailed assessment is needed to determine whether the penalties allowed under the Global Magnitsky Act and Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act should be invoked to address the gross human rights violations spearheaded by President Buhari’s inner circle like those targeted at Christians and other religious minorities.
Attorney General Barr and the U.S. government have a powerful lever to use to move the Nigerians toward getting their act together. They should do so forthwith. The U.S. must uphold the rule of law to stop the persecution and send a signal to the Nigerian Government that human rights are essential and violations of such will be to the detriment of any strong government-to-government relationship.
The Jones Act Webinar is part of WJLA-TV’s Government Matters series on “Sea-Air-Space 2020 Virtual Edition.” It will include Frontiers of Freedom Senior Fellow, the Honorable Ernest Istook, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2007 and is currently teaching at Brigham Young University.
The Host will be Francis Rose. Topics will include: What is the Jones Act? Why is it both a commercial and national security issue? What are common misconceptions about the Jones Act? How does it work? How does China and its “One Belt, One Road” plan play into this issue?
If you are in the Washington DC metro area, you can watch the program on WJLA 24/7 News (formerly NewsChannel 8). If you are anywhere else you can watch it at FedInsider.com.
It will be broadcast on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Time.
By Aaron Kliegman • Washington Free Beacon
Hopes were high in Hanoi, Vietnam, this week, as President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiled and shook hands, ready for their second summit. Perhaps the United States and North Korea would finally reach a deal to denuclearize the latter, paving the way for a more benign, fruitful relationship between the two countries. Alas, it was not meant to be. Trump and Kim ended their summit on Thursday after failing to agree on any steps to curb North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program. But while the talks collapsed—at least for the moment—people should not view the result as a failure. Indeed, Trump should be commended for walking away from a bad deal.
Many observers thought Trump would be so desperate for a deal that he would agree to almost any terms, succumbing to dreams of diplomatic greatness. They watched Trump call Kim his “friend” and worried the president was too trusting. Perhaps Kim felt this way, too, hence his widely one-sided proposal (more on that in a moment). Ultimately, however, Trump did not do what his critics feared.
“I am never afraid to walk from a deal,” Trump told reporters after the summit ended. “Sometimes you have to walk.”
Lifting sanctions on North Korea seemed to be the main roadblock to further negotiations. According to Trump, Kim insisted that all of the United Nations’s sanctions imposed on Pyongyang be lifted in exchange for dismantling the Yongbyon nuclear facility, the site of a reactor and plutonium-reprocessing plant and a central piece of the North’s weapons program.
“It was about the sanctions,” Trump said. “Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, but we couldn’t do that.”
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho later disputed Trump’s account of what happened, saying his country asked for the removal of 5 of the 11 sets of sanctions imposed by the U.N., not all of them.
“We proposed to the United States to lift five sanctions—which [were] adopted between 2016 and 2017 and impede the civilian economy and the livelihood of our people—among 11 U.N. sanctions resolutions all together,” Ri said, according to a translation of his remarks.
Even if Ri’s account is accurate, Trump was right to reject the proposal. That North Korea only asked for a fraction of the U.N. resolutions can be misleading; the five that North Korea put on the table comprise most of the international pressure through sanctions on Pyongyang. Trump may have not been literally accurate about all sanctions, but he was right for all intents and purposes. And in exchange, the North would only destroy one nuclear site. What about the other sites in North Korea? And what about inspecting them? Like Iran during negotiations over its nuclear program, North Korea seems to want all the benefits without any of the costs: to obtain relief from sanctions while preserving the ability to build nuclear weapons. Only this time, Trump did not grant an adversary its wish—at least for now.
One does not need an MBA from an elite university to realize that making major concessions up front in a negotiation takes away leverage for later. If Trump agreed to lift most sanctions right away in exchange for less extensive nuclear concessions, then the United States would be in a far weaker position to act against North Korea in the future if necessary. What if North Korea cheats? What leverage would the United States have? Re-imposing sanctions at the U.N. does not happen with a snap of the fingers. Considering all North Korea has done is lie to the international community about its nuclear program, Pyongyang cheating is an outcome all too likely.
The United States should not provide North Korea any sanctions relief for something it has repeatedly promised to do. More generally, the United States should not lift any sanctions until North Korea has demonstrated beyond doubt that it has taken major steps to curb its nuclear program. Any agreement that falls short of this standard is not worth the paper on which it is written.
Trump’s decision to walk away from Kim’s proposal is a net positive not only for his policy toward North Korea, but also toward Iran. Had Trump agreed to North Korea’s terms, the Islamic Republic would have seen the United States make significant concessions while still allowing North Korea to keep its nuclear arsenal. Iran would be given greater incentive to undermine American sanctions and still seek nuclear weapons, believing that, once it gets the bomb, Washington will not have the will to do anything meaningful about it.
After the Hanoi Summit, the question is what happens next. Fortunately, the United States and North Korea are still talking, so high-level negotiations may resume at a later date. Whether they do or not, Trump and his advisers should consider one hitch that few people want to acknowledge, a hitch that explains why this summit failed and why future summits will likely fail: the United States wants North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, and North Korea does not want to give them up. That basic point is the great obstacle to denuclearization. And unless it changes, do not bet on any grand diplomatic bargains.