One of Donald Trump’s possible picks for secretary of state said on Friday that the president-elect’s criticisms of China and phone call with Taiwan’s president could signal a “different” relationship with Beijing and a tougher line on issues from trade to the South China Sea.
In a speech on Thursday in Iowa, Trump said the United States needed to improve its relationship with China, which he criticized for its economic policies and failure to rein in North Korea.
“That and the call to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen that was arranged a week ago, I think, certainly lay the foundation for a different relationship (with China),” John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, told Fox Business.
Bolton, a hawkish conservative seen as being among the contenders to be Trump’s secretary of state, said Trump expected countries to live up to commitments they have made on issues such as trade.
“The Chinese have not just been doing that,” Bolton said, while also highlighting what he said were China’s political and military steps “to make the South China Sea into a Chinese province.”
Asked if he thought Trump’s remarks were a statement of intent and an opening negotiating position, Bolton said, “I think that’s at least what it is, and it may be more than that as well. You could use the Taiwan relationship to play off against their performance in the South China Sea.
“I think it was very important that he mentioned what I’ve seen for the past 15 years, which is that China says they’re being helpful with the North Korean nuclear weapons program, when in fact they’ve done precious little,” he said.
In an opinion article last January in The Wall Street Journal, Bolton proposed using degrees of escalation on Taiwan that could start with receiving Taiwanese diplomats officially at the State Department and lead to restoring full diplomatic recognition, to pressure China to step back from its pursuit of territory in East Asia.
Experts saw Trump’s call with Tsai on Dec. 4 – the first by a U.S. president-elect or president with a Taiwanese leader since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition to China from Taiwan in 1979 – as an opening salvo in a risky test of wills with Beijing.
However, Trump followed this by saying he would nominate Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, a long-standing friend of Beijing, as the next U.S. ambassador to China, a move which that country’s state news agency said was a positive sign for ties.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
Trump To Nominate Extreme Militant John Bolton As State Department’s No. 2
Bolton is an extraordinarily hawkish choice.
By Jessica Schulberg
December 11, 2016 “Information Clearing House” – “Huffington Post” – President-elect Donald Trump will nominate John Bolton to be the nation’s No. 2 diplomat, handling day-to-day operations at the State Department, according to NBC’s Andrea Mitchell and confirmed to HuffPost by a source close to the transition.
Bolton, who had been on Trump’s short list for secretary of state at one point, is among the most hawkish members of the Republican foreign policy community, a bellicose enemy of Russia and Iran.
He is a former acting U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, but served less than two years, as Democrats banded together to block his long-term appointment. His time at the U.N. was marked by a rapid uptick in anti-American sentiment among the global diplomatic community. Bolton remains one of the most disliked foreign policy operators on the world stage.
Trump’s search for State Department leadership has been particularly dramatic. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was in the running, and then he bowed out on Friday. The GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, was also considered. But media outlets reported Saturday that Trump had settled on Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson for the top State Department job.
Even as the second in command at State, Bolton is an aggressive selection from Trump, shattering the president-elect’s pledge to work peacefully with other countries. Bolton, who has called for the bombing of Iran, held high-level roles in three different Republican administrations between 1998 and 2006. He is now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank whose vice president has described Trump as “an idiot.”
He would be reporting to a commander-in-chief who appears to espouse a worldview diametrically opposed to his own. Bolton has repeatedly slammed President Barack Obama for his willingness to engage in limited cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Syria and Iran.
“While Mr. Obama sleepwalks, Mr. Putin is ardently pursuing Russia’s Middle East objectives,” Bolton wrote in a 2013 op-ed that argued against assuming the U.S. has common interests with Russia in Syria.
In 2014, speculating that Russia was responsible for the downing of a Malaysian plane over Ukraine, Bolton told Fox News, “I think we’ve got to begin to treat Russia like the adversary that Putin is currently demonstrating it to be.”
Two years later, Bolton expressed hope that Obama wouldn’t do anything in his final year in office to legitimize Russia’s military efforts in Syria, where U.S. defense officials say Russia is focused on bombing Syrian opposition fighters rather than Islamic State forces. “Until Mr. Obama departs the White House,” Bolton wrote in October 2015, “Washington must not do anything perceived as legitimizing Moscow’s new Latakia air base, or the presence of Russian aircraft and cruise missiles in the skies over the region. The suggestion that we exchange deconfliction codes with Russia is what the French call a fausse bonne idee, a superficially appealing bad idea.”
Trump, a man who has extensive financial ties with Russia, is far more likely than Obama to legitimize Moscow’s military endeavors in the Middle East. He has already broken with the Republican orthodoxy by suggesting that the U.S. abandon its efforts to fight ISIS in Syria and let Russia take over.
“This has happened before. We back a certain side, and that side turns out to be a total catastrophe,” Trump said in September, referring to U.S. support for the opposition groups fighting ISIS and Syrian President Bashar Assad. “Russia likes Assad, seemingly, a lot — let them worry about ISIS. Let them fight it out.”
In a phone conversation last month, Trump and Putin committed to working to normalize relations, a Kremlin readout of the call said. The current relationship, the two leaders agreed, is “extremely unsatisfactory.”
Yet Trump listed Bolton as one of his “go-to” experts on national security issues during a “Meet the Press” interview in August. “He’s, you know, a tough cookie, knows what he’s talking about,” Trump said.
It was a curious comment from a man who had spent the previous several months (falsely) boasting that he was opposed to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and hitting his opponent for her vote in support of the war. Bolton was in favor of invading Iraq as early as 1998. In the lead-up to the invasion, Bolton, then under secretary of state for arms control, peddled false information about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction program. Even after it became clear that the Iraqi dictator did not possess such weapons, Bolton maintained that the war was a good idea.