It is likely that global powers are expecting the Trump administration to react temperamentally regarding recent North Korean missile launches. However, at present, military aggression on the part of the Trump administration may be too predictable to garner the most profitable outcome for the U.S.
North Korea is a rogue power serving as an agitator for the Chinese. It is trying to box President Trump into a situation where he appears overly confrontational or submissive depending on his course of action. Although merely a surrogate of China, North Korea cannot be underestimated. It has a strong military with unknown capability in terms of weapons capacity. If Trump answers North Korea with aggression, he will be publicized by his opposition as foolish enough to hasten the start of a nuclear war. If he does not answer the North Korean threat, he will be painted as a paper tiger.
It is likely that strategies are designed by China and North Korea to counter predictable responses on the part of the President. The U.S.’s response to North Korea should be unpredictable, yet costly to the Chinese. Trump should propose incentives for U.S. companies in China to come back to the U.S., or relocate to India, or other Western-friendly countries near China’s sphere of influence. The greatest incentives would be granted to companies that ready to close doors and leave China the soonest. In addition, additional merchant marine and naval support should be granted to countries that receive the bulk of U.S. companies relocating from China. This two-pronged approach is needed to hedge further Chinese naval aggression in key trade routes.
Perhaps Secretary of State Tillerson should reach out to India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Taiwan in answering China’s powerplay via North Korea. These countries still have capacity to develop sectors where the Chinese are starting to become more complacent. As many in the Chinese workforce are demanding greater pay, and companies in China are looking to evolve toward industries requiring greater intellectual capacity, the Chinese are starting to price themselves out of low and mid-cost global labor markets. Many countries near China’s sphere of influence are hungry too fill that void.
Aggressive diplomacy on the part of the U.S. will force the Chinese and the North Koreans to respond diplomatically or militarily. An aggressive response from China may warrant crippling U.S. tariffs on key Chinese exports. A naval powerplay by the Chinese in waters too far away from its mainland will warrant military reprisal by countries whose waters the Chinese violate. China would take great risk in striking countries with ports and waters additional naval capacity on the part of the U.S.
Those on the left will likely complain that Trump is urging conflict and putting U.S. trade at risk. However, given the provocations of North Korea, aggressive diplomacy is a defensible course of action. Chinese trespass on global trade routes, diminished trade partnership and currency power are what the U.S. and the West should expect if China goes unchecked for North Korea’s recent nuclear missile launches.
For the past decade, China has blatantly manipulated currency, bought sovereign territory in other countries, and has constructed islands off its coast, attempting to extend its naval sovereignty and dominate trade waters. Letting the Chinese go unchecked for the actions of North Korea will have disastrous financial consequences for the U.S. and the West.
North Korea will likely assist other anti-Western countries in designing their own nuclear program. It has already worked with the Iranians regarding their growing nuclear program. China is the only country North Korea will answer too. For North Korea or any country aligned with China to stop agitating Western powers, the U.S. must hurt China both economically and in terms of diplomatic strategy.