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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Sunday, February 18, 2018

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The big Chinese confusion: What’s Trump’s REAL policy on China?

Trump striking a conciliatory tone

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WASHINGTON, U.S. - Ever since he assumed presidency, Donald Trump’s administration has been putting out a mixed message on dealing with China.

While his presidency started out with confronting China, threatening the One-China policy that the U.S. adopted in 1979 - by taking a congratulatory call from the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

Then, Trump striking a conciliatory tone, invited the Chinese President Xi Jinping to the U.S. and hosted him at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago.

He even predicted that the two presidents were “going to have a very, very great relationship,” the Mar-a-Lago.

The two countries even resolved to solve the North Korea crisis together, with the U.S. constantly trying to pressure Beijing about reigning in its neighbor to give up its nuclear weapons program. 

However, things changed this week after the U.S. president threatened to impose sanctions on a Chinese bank for its alleged dealings with North Korea and confirmed a new arms sale package for Taiwan.

China, subsequently, responded angrily and said it had protested to Washington after the U.S. Senate Committee approved a bill calling for the resumption of port visits to Taiwan by the U.S. Navy for the first time since the United States adopted the one-China policy.

Taiwan troubles

The U.S. said that it plans to sell Taiwan $1.42 billion in arms, the first such sale under the administration of Donald Trump.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters on Thursday that the administration had told Congress of the seven proposed sales, adding, “It's now valued about $1.42 billion.”

The State Department also added that the package included technical support for early warning radar, high-speed anti-radiation missiles, torpedoes and missile components.

Nauert said the sales showed U.S. "support for Taiwan's ability to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability," but clarified that there was no change to the United States' long-standing "one China" policy, which recognises Beijing and not Taipei.

Beijing launched a strong protest, even tough the U.S. is the sole arms supplier to Taiwan, which China deems its own and has never renounced the use of force to bring the self-ruled island under its control.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen meanwhile refuses to recognise the "one China" policy.

On Friday, Tsai's office said that her government will continue "to seek constructive dialogue with Beijing, and promote positive developments in cross-strait relations."

Tsai's office also tweeted, "(The arms sale) increases Taiwan's confidence and ability to maintain the status quo of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

Meanwhile, the official party paper, the People’s Daily quoted China's Ambassador Cui Tiankai as saying that the U.S. was "incorrigible" when it comes to Taiwan.

Tiankai said, "But we should still continue to instruct (them) and continue advancing on the right track of China-U.S. relations because this is what truly fits with for both countries' long-term interests.””

Now, the sale requires congressional approval and would be the first to Taiwan since a $1.83 billion sale that former President Barack Obama announced in December 2015, irking China.

While the previous package included two navy frigates in addition to anti-tank missiles and amphibious attack vehicles, the State Department official said the latest package primarily represented "upgrades to existing defense capabilities aimed at converting current legacy systems from analog to digital."

Commenting on the deal, Taiwan's defence ministry said the items would enhance air and sea combat capability and early warning defences - adding that Taiwan and the U.S. would continue to consolidate their security partnership to contribute to long-term stability in the region.

In March, when U.S. officials announced the administration’s plan for a “big arms sale to Taiwan,” the issue threatened to jeopardize China’s relationship with the U.S. and talks subsequently died down, apparently in the interest of Trump trying to persuade Beijing to do more to rein in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

On Thursday however, China responded angrily and said it had protested to Washington after the bill calling for the resumption of port visits to Taiwan by the U.S. Navy was approved by the U.S. Senate Committee.

In reaction, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman said the bill was in violation of the principles of U.S.-China relations and called on Washington to halt military drills with and arms sales to Taiwan "to avoid further impairing broadly cooperative China-U.S. relations."

Meanwhile, officials also revealed earlier this week that Trump is now considering trade actions against Beijing, despite having heaped praise on the Chinese President after an April summit.

Washington also stepped up pressure on Beijing by imposing sanctions on two Chinese citizens and a shipping company for helping North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

It also accused a Chinese bank of laundering money for Pyongyang.

According to Paul Haenle, a former Asia adviser to both Barack Obama and George W Bush, U.S. expectations had been too high after the Mar-a-Lago summit. 

He explained, “The Chinese have been confident in their ability to handle Trump. Their strategy has been to dole out small concessions here and there, but they never changed their fundamental approach on North Korea.” 

Meanwhile, Shi Yinhong, a foreign relations expert at Renmin University in Beijing, argued that the Chinese government would only impose “the ultimate sanction” on North Korea — a long-term suspension of oil and fuel supplies — if Pyongyang carries out a new nuclear test. 

He added, “China has already done a lot. But China does not control North Korea.”

> BNN

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