The Chinese military cut off talks with the Pentagon this week and recalled a visiting People’s Liberation Army Navy admiral in protest over new sanctions the Trump administration levied against Beijing for weapons sales to Russia.
PLAN Adm. Shen Jinlong was to meet Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson at the Pentagon on Saturday, the Washington Free Beacon reported. However, that meeting has now been canceled and Shen was ordered to return to China during a seapower conference he was attending that the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island.
“We were informed that Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong has been recalled to China and would not conduct the visit with Adm. Richardson,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Logan said, without providing any further details.
The news site noted further:
Shen was to have made an official visit to the Pentagon as part of the Pentagon’s military exchange program with China, which has been under fire from critics who say the visits have been used to boost Chinese warfighting capabilities while producing little in the way of building trust between the militaries.
The exchange program is favored by some defense and military officials who believe the program will reduce tensions.
In addition to cutting short the admiral’s visit, China’s military also canceled talks in Beijing with U.S. military officials on creating a communications channel between joint staff departments that had been set to begin Tuesday.
Late Wednesday, China took a third action against the U.S. military rejecting a Pentagon request for a U.S. warship to visit Hong Kong next month as part of the U.S.-China military exchange program.
The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp, carrying Marines, was to make a port call but U.S. officials said Beijing turned down plans for the visit.
Analysis: The sanctions over China’s weapons sales are without precedent. Every previous U.S. administration in the modern era looked the other way when China sold or otherwise transferred increasingly sophisticated weapons technology to other states.
These transfers included nuclear weapons technology to Pakistan in the 1980s, tech that eventually made its way to North Korea, Iran, Libya, and Syria.
In addition to violating U.S. law, such transfers were often in violation of United Nations resolutions against the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology. And while both legal apparatuses carry little deterrence with rising revisionist power, the Trump administration’s new actions are at least a signal that Washington is no longer willing to look the other way, especially at a time when many believe the cooperation with China is a one-way street and while Beijing is stealing as much American technology as possible.
The sanctions also come amid reports this week that U.S. intelligence discovered a Chinese spy in the Chicago area. The alleged spy, Ji Chaoqun, 27, came to the U.S. in 2013 on an F1 visa and was attending college as an engineering student. After he was arrested and charged as spying on behalf of China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS), it was revealed that he had enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve program called Military Accession Vital to the National Interest program, known as MAVNI. U.S. law permits the Army to hire certain non-citizens in the country legally who have special skills.
Most recently, China was caught transferring heavy missile launch vehicles to North Korea for use as mobile launchers for its nuclear-tipped ICBMs. Mobile launchers are much more difficult to locate and destroy. The transfers began during the Obama administration in 2014, but the Trump administration was the first to sanction Beijing over those transfers (in October).
Defense Secretary James Mattis explained the most recent round of weapons sales-related sanctions to reporters, and China’s counter-actions.
“Right now, it’s too early to say. We’re still sorting this out. We believe that we do have to have a relationship with China and Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo and I are of one mind on this,” he said.
That said, the Trump administration is the first to look at China’s actions, collectively, in the modern era and conclude that Beijing is a strategic competitor and a future threat and that the Asian giant will first and foremost pursue its own strategic and national interests, even to the detriment of American national and global interests.
While it’s natural for rising powers like China to pursue their own interests, when they conflict with our own it is counterproductive to continue to behave as though nothing is wrong. Under previous administrations that is what our policies have been regarding the Chinese; disregard their blatant violations of U.S. law, UN resolutions, and American national interests, in the pursuit of ‘better relations.’
Mattis is saying that U.S. policy toward China will become what U.S. policy towards Russia is: We will work with Beijing when it is beneficial to do so, but challenge China anywhere and everywhere Beijing’s policies conflict with our own or put our country at risk. This new approach, in conjunction with a more aggressive trade policy, won’t play well in the Chinese capital but the Trump administration isn’t trying to win a popularity contest, it is trying to defend American interests at a time when they are increasingly threatened in a vitally important part of the world.