Shadow Government

A front-row seat to the Republicans' debate over foreign policy, including their critique of the Biden administration.

Obama’s successful North Korea policy

The Washington Post recently reported that China is pushing for a resumption of the Six Party Talks. This means one thing: President Obama’s North Korea policy is working. The relationship with China works best when China needs something from us. Consider this: former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld refused to see the Chinese for a ...

Elizabeth Dalziel-Pool/Getty Images
Elizabeth Dalziel-Pool/Getty Images
Elizabeth Dalziel-Pool/Getty Images

The Washington Post recently reported that China is pushing for a resumption of the Six Party Talks. This means one thing: President Obama's North Korea policy is working. The relationship with China works best when China needs something from us. Consider this: former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld refused to see the Chinese for a year after the PLA rammed our EP3 surveillance aircraft with a fighter jet. The Chinese were begging to see him, and DOD got what it wanted from the relationship. That is the proper way to handle Beijing -- the deft use of leverage.

Now we want China to use its influence to disarm North Korea, join our contingency planning for a political transition in Pyongyang that could get messy, and discuss the eventual unification of the peninsula. The fact that China is practically begging the other Six Party participants to come back to the table means that China is feeling the pain of Obama's policy. The administration has conducted joint exercises with the Republic of Korea, enacted harsh sanctions on Pyongyang, and refused to negotiate with Pyongyang unless it stops its provocations. We are demonstrating to Beijing that if it does not control its North Korean ally, China should be ready for intense U.S. pressure on its periphery. The administration should stick with its approach until Beijing forces Pyongyang to abide by international law and give up its nuclear weapons.

But the Washington Post article closes on a somewhat troubling note: the administration wants some contact with Pyongyang. This is not the time to talk to Pyongyang. Obama should not repeat President Bush's mistake -- as soon as he used U.S. leverage over North Korea and China in the form of biting sanctions, he lifted them only to receive more dangerous provocations in return. Obama should wait until China is clear about its choices: disarm Kim or face unrelenting U.S. pressure.

The Washington Post recently reported that China is pushing for a resumption of the Six Party Talks. This means one thing: President Obama’s North Korea policy is working. The relationship with China works best when China needs something from us. Consider this: former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld refused to see the Chinese for a year after the PLA rammed our EP3 surveillance aircraft with a fighter jet. The Chinese were begging to see him, and DOD got what it wanted from the relationship. That is the proper way to handle Beijing — the deft use of leverage.

Now we want China to use its influence to disarm North Korea, join our contingency planning for a political transition in Pyongyang that could get messy, and discuss the eventual unification of the peninsula. The fact that China is practically begging the other Six Party participants to come back to the table means that China is feeling the pain of Obama’s policy. The administration has conducted joint exercises with the Republic of Korea, enacted harsh sanctions on Pyongyang, and refused to negotiate with Pyongyang unless it stops its provocations. We are demonstrating to Beijing that if it does not control its North Korean ally, China should be ready for intense U.S. pressure on its periphery. The administration should stick with its approach until Beijing forces Pyongyang to abide by international law and give up its nuclear weapons.

But the Washington Post article closes on a somewhat troubling note: the administration wants some contact with Pyongyang. This is not the time to talk to Pyongyang. Obama should not repeat President Bush’s mistake — as soon as he used U.S. leverage over North Korea and China in the form of biting sanctions, he lifted them only to receive more dangerous provocations in return. Obama should wait until China is clear about its choices: disarm Kim or face unrelenting U.S. pressure.

Daniel Blumenthal is the director of Asian studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

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