TIME: 13:00 – 14:00, 19th April 2017
VENUE: Committee Room 12, House of Commons, Palace of Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA
SPEAKER: Satu Limaye
Bob Stewart MP
Good afternoon everyone it’s a very important day in this Parliament. I’m Bob Stewart Member of Parliament for Beckenham, I’m on the defence select committee and the Northern Ireland select committee and I have a kind of interest in the Far East. The Prime Minister is actually on her feet now calling which makes it difficult for me because I should be there, calling for a general election on the 8th June I think but I’m not there so I can’t say. But here’s the point, the point of the is meeting is that we are going to listen to what Mr Trump might propose to do in the South China/East China sea and that area and the Far East.
This is of great importance at the moment. And to do that we’ve got Satu, is it Limaye? Now that’s very good Satu Limaye and my God we’ve got Bruce here too is that right looking thinner than ever, ex-MP for Walsall South and a good friend of mine although he is a pretty dodgy lefty.
So Satu is actually here and is an expert, PHD from Oxford well I suppose it’s a reasonable University, he’s an expert on Asia Pacific, he lives in Washington, have you met Mr Trump?
I have not.
Bob Stewart MP
He has not met Mr Trump but he is Director of the East/West Centre in Washington, what the heck that means I don’t know but what it does mean effectively is that this guy knows a lot about the subject he is about to talk about and a damn sight more than me and even Bruce at the bottom there, who was by the way chairman of the defence select committee for a very long time and once when the world was black and white did we write a book on NATO together?
Bob Stewart MP
Several hmm we did. Satu I’m sorry for a very bad introduction as my mind is at sixes and sevens as I wonder if I am going to fight off the yellow peril that’s the Liberal party, it’s nothing politically unacceptable but we will easily see off the yellow peril in my constituency, however let’s talk about what is really important in this room and it’s your subject Satu. Would you like to sit here?
I’m absolutely fine thank you.
Bob Stewart MP
Thank you Bob and thank you John and thank you Colonel Bob Stewart for hosting this presentation. I’m here in London for seven meetings around the Royal College of Defence studies, IISS and other places and John and I have known each other for several years and I’ve really respected the work he’s doing and inaudible.
Can I just say one thing first of all. It is extraordinary for me to get to speak in this room to The Henry Jackson Society because I am from Washington DC State in the United States and my last campaign in Washington State was working for Senator Jackson’s 1983 senate. So that’s how far back I go so for me as an Indian immigrant who was educated at Oxford to come back to speak on US-Asia to The Henry Jackson Society the day after you guys call an election and we have a new President, there are some connections here I’m not sure what they are but I must proceed.
Look I was given 15 minutes to lay out things and since sometimes we Americans are known well I will say for our self-confidence, let me just say I know everything that’s going to happen in the Trump administration regarding Asia so all answers are here it’s very clear to me, I will lay it out for you. Actually it’s not true I was joking with John earlier on that really what I feel increasingly is we used to say that inaudible policy, looking for safety, looking for analysis and now we read tweets and so based on exhaustive examination of tweets I’ve come up with the following conclusions.
First let’s start with what the rebalance was and where Trump will go I think on the rebalance, leave aside the hour to hour, minute to minute. There were 6 elements of the rebalance. First work with your allies – adapt alliances to make them stronger and that means not only our alliances in Asia but in the UK and in Europe elsewhere. Second build partnerships with other allies in the South East of Asia, crucially those are China, India and some of South East Asia inaudible.. but I will do South East Asia. Third consolidate, fix and make more efficient our forward military defence posture as you know where former deployed and postured in the Asia Pacific with troops both from Japan and Korea, rotational forces in Australia and other forms of military activity in the region. Fourth work through multilateral institutions to project global rules and orders particularly about the maritime and good rules of safety in the East China Sea, South China Sea and the Sea on its inaudible. Fifth to build trade and investment relations and the fight ship of that with the trans-Pacific partnership and sixth promote human rights and democracy.
So in a sense that was the rebalance and this isn’t an in vacuous strategy this is not a strategy of abstraction. The reason we have this strategy called the rebalance is because Asia is an increasingly important part of our national life.
Bob Stewart MP
Do you mind if I interrupt? You didn’t say one thing about rebalancing not one of those factors was a change in the emphasis all of them were universal, they weren’t specific for Asia they were actually the rebalance is where you tilt something towards something more than somewhere else presumably so I didn’t quite understand the word rebalance when all those 6 factors were actually universal.
And that’s because I particularly don’t think we ever rebalanced to a pivot.
Bob Stewart MP
Ah there we are, I’m not that stupid.
What I think we did was work on all these 6 areas more than we had in the past.
Bob Stewart MP
Ok got it right, so you’re rebalancing overall?
Well there’s 3 elements of rebalance specifically. One more relations with the united, two trying to work out some sort of relationship with China and third put more forces and military capabilities in the region.
So the first question is how much of this is left under the Trump administration? Let me run through the 6 things and give you my assessment of where these stand as of 1:10pm.
One – we are moving towards more alliance reassurance from the Trump campaign basically in other words during the campaign President Candidate Trump questioned alliances including relationships with long-standing allies like Japan, Australia etc. What we are now, we are moving in a more traditional of showmanship alliances and you see that in the fact that Secretary Mathias and Vice President Pence, Secretary Tillerson all went to Asia in the first or second month of taking office which shows you how much kind of a rebalance of priorities. How strong that is measured is a kind of indication of where the US administration first trips are going.
Second – in terms of these alliances and partnerships the Trump administration very much I believe is looking through a transactional lens rather than a norms rule and institutions and values lens. That is alliances are not useful because we share values we the UK or with Australia or with Japan or with Korea or with Taiwan or with others. It’s because there are deals or arrangements to be made in foreign policy defence and security economic interests. So the second point is this is very much transactional you can see this in all kind of ways. Will that change I don’t know but it is so far transactional.
Third – there is very little discernible change in the priority given to US foreign posture of our military assets. There is no talk about removing forces from Japan, there is no talk about removing forces from Korea, there is no talk about doing less militarily in the region and as you know in the Presidents first budget for fiscal year 2018 he’s proposed a rather large increase in the military budget, particularly maybe forces for the maritime domain of Asia.
Fourth – there seems to be very little interest in pursuing President Obamas multilateral strategy. That is a strategy based on East Asia summit, the Asia Pacific economic cooperation and other organisations.
Fifth – the TPPs there but it is my view and I will lay it out there because I am not a US government official, I’m an Academic in the analytical community who runs a think tank in Washington, that the TPP is dead in the US administration but not dead in terms of policy. Every US Asia free trade agreement we have passed in the last 30 years has been opposed before it go approved including the NATO agreement, the current US free trade agreement and others. Can we come back to it? Don’t know it will depend but as long as the other 11 signatories to the TTP agreement keep their options open and the agreement dry we can perhaps talk later. Please remember that we did not initiate TTP we docked on to TTP late, we were later converts if you will.
And finally there is very little, to my disappointment, very little focus on human rights and democracy which is the basis for our relations with Taipei, with Tokyo, with New Delhi and other players in the region.
So the Obama approach I would say if you had to asses it using the following 4 elements – one no surprises and predictability, two – transparency, third- delinking issues one from the other, for example China, we disagreed with China’s behaviour on the East China Sea and aggressiveness in the South China Sea but we will not link that to China’s behaviour on the climate change agreement or the Iran nuclear deal. We will delink them, bad behaviour in one doesn’t cost you everything. Finally in terms of personnel President Obama was very committed to getting on most, best, well-versed Asia specialists into office early on and crafting the so-called pivot for rebalance and structure strategy.
What is President Trump’s approach so far as we can tell? First – surprises are good. One day it’s a call from the Taiwan leader and I recently not long ago been to Taiwan and I’m delighted that we want to have good relations with Taiwan but inaudible.. in terms of policy, he is inaudible.. in his deliberations, we are not quite clear there is not strategy framework as there was with Obama and everything is linked and everything is negotiated. As Vice President tweeted for Korea as he departed Seoul airport ‘we are going to commit to our alliance with the Republic of Korea, we will continue to work with Korea on North Korea but we also want a better trade deal of course’ so there are things that are linked. And we don’t have the most senior policy positions in place, feel like operating our policy without key assistant secretaries, key under-secretaries etc.
What is the impact, what does this mean for America? For Japan not much I believe that Japan is an ally which will continue its trajectory of adopting more autonomy in the alliance and second I think Japan will continue to find a way to bring TTP back because it’s in their interest to do so. On the Republic of Korea there is an election as you know next month, it’s a very unsettled situation and your guess is as good as mine as to who will win the election and what that will mean but I would be surprised if the Republic of Korea re-negotiated on the inaudible.. system I mean I think to go back on it would be difficult. I think the Korean’s are very worried about what it means to re-negotiate the Korean Western trade agreement. Australia I believe continues to be strong supports the Australian defence and security in a political establishment with the United States but I believe Australia is particularly anxious about what it means to be between the US and China.
On Thailand our other ally I think that Thailand is relieved that there is no emphasis on their human rights because it may give them so breathing room as the continue their inaudible.. succession in their currently non-elected government. The Republic of the Philippines as you know they already had an election and the leader to what some people have compared to our President rightly or wrongly in terms of character and style and approach and the Republic of the Philippines right now is going through quite a bit of unsettlement about its relationship with the US although I do think ultimately that the institutional and structural American advantage in the Philippines are very strong.
Let me turn to China. China I think we have a fundamental pitch, first since the normalisation with China after the late 60s into the 1970s and the re-establishment of the Russians we now have an emerging contest between the United States and China. And that contest expresses itself in 4 areas – first on power on shifting the relative balance of pull, two – on order on which I mean rules, norms, institutions, ways of doing business in the internal system. Third – on the relations that we are competitively forging in the region and fourth on the narrative that were selling about our role in their region. The Chinese narrative against the West basically is the US is not a nation country, it’s far from it and it’s declining. I think all of those things are fundamentally mistaken in the analysis by China but inaudible…
So where does that leave us with China? The first problem I see is we do not have a framework that works with China. Normalisation was a framework that we could come out of the cold and rebuild the diplomatic relationship. The problem is successively we tried a number of ways of expressing the US-China relationship which is, you’ve heard these phrases, responsible stakeholders, we told the Chinese that there should be a responsible stakeholder in the international system. Another attempt was a G2, a US-Beijing kind of cooperative element at global and regional affairs. We tried strategically assurance, the Chinese have tried an idea out on us and that idea is that they want Washington to be a party to something they call, I’m not quite sure what it means, a new model of great power and emergence. These frameworks are not for one reason or another sufficiently inaudible.. .
But that’s the first problem. The second problem is relations are on the trajectory and getting worse that is to say the underlying trajectory of the US-China structure relationship is getting worse because there is no strategic distrust. Why is there no strategic distrust, from an American point of view I think one – we see China being much more assertive on maritime disputes and sovereign territory claims. Two because we see Chinese economic and business balance to the US-China relationship is being undercut by Chinese behaviour and three because China believes that history has been on its side since the global financial crisis 2007/2008 that somehow things are shifting in their way and that Americans inaudible
Is it really bad, well I can tell you this. I think as I said the trajectory is getting worse but it’s not as bad as it was in 1949 when we were at war with Korea. It’s not as bad as Tiananmen Square, it’s not as bad as the mid-1990s inaudible.. so it’s a bit bad, I think it is kind of bad. I think it’s worrying you should all be watchful but not panicked, this is not yet an unmanageable, unmitigated disaster.
Fourth, I think the simple fact is the US-China relationship is now if you pardon the expression we use about it, too big to fail. No Chinese President or American President can consider their job done if the relationship collapses, if it ends in conflict. So there are a number of mechanisms to manage relations at multiple levels. The question is which levels matter, which issues matter and how do you manage them. That is not science, it’s not physics, it’s not chemistry it’s art and so we are working our way through this new administration to figuring out how that works.
On North Korea. It seems to me that North Korea is a big expressionist I haven’t a clue what will happen in North Korea tomorrow or later today. What I do think is the idea is now that we are somehow outsourcing the North Korea problem to China. I think that we cannot expect China to help us in North Korea. I do not think we can expect China to help us in North Korea for the following reasons – one North Korea is like almost no other problem, it effects the stability of Chinese territory or mainland China. Two it effects, potentially, the presence of 70,000 US forces in the region depending on the outcome of what happens. Third because it is basically an area where there is at least room to doubt how much leverage China has. One the one hand China is 85% of the North Korean trade, we know that China could impose extraordinary hardships on North Korea if they wanted. The question is where is the balance between working with us on sanctions and working with us to prevent the wall collapse of North Korea. I don’t know the answer I’m framing the argument for where we are in this earl negotiating process.
This is where the Trump administration’s approach is deal making. When President Trump tweeted the day before yesterday or yesterday that ‘I have not declared China a currency manipulator because let’s see what they do on North Korea.’ I personally believe, I am speaking in my personal capacity that this is not the useful way to proceed. I do not believe that China should be named a currency manipulator because I don’t think currency manipulation is the main problem of the US-China economic relations. I think they have mercantile trade, closed markets, intellectual property and in fact many other issues but I don’t think currency manipulation is the main one. And I think linking it to North Korea means that you have created a linkage were there’s no favour block. You can’t win either way because I don’t think as I said North Korea.
So where does that leave us? The challenges to the US are the anxieties and uncertainties of our partners. The second a deep feeling that the US has lost interest in being a leader in the region that everything is transactional. Third calibrating the demands of our US allies and partners on security versus calibrating it on trade and economics. Fourth, getting the US-China relationship right and sometimes I use the slightly flippant comment that we want it like the porridge in the fairy-tale. We want the US-China relationship not too hot, not too cold, we want it just right and so does the most of Asia. And finally so far absence on strategy to this point. But let me stop there and colonel thank you for your indulgence, I went 2.06 minutes over sorry.
Bob Stewart MP
I thought you were excellent actually, very, very clear and I am grateful for that as we all are. John Hemmings from The Henry Jackson Society, John’s going to ask a question.
If I may with the chairman’s generosity, I just wonder if you are able to give us here in London an idea of what’s happening at the Whitehouse level and this is maybe pushing out the boat in terms of guestimation but Peter Navro in the national trade council the 100 days with China, you know we have saw the death by China kind of thing was kind of an animated thing for him during the campaign but now we have the sense that maybe we are going back towards a more mainstream China policy. Can you tell us some more of the internal dynamics about the personalities and were that might take us?
Well I’m not in the White House so I don’t know so I will say the following 3, 4 things. First the key cabinet appointments for foreign security defence and intelligence or what might be termed in American terms, I don’t know what you would use here, mainstream or establishment figures. They appear to be getting control over the policy leavers and the policy messages, hence as I said a movement from we don’t trust allies, allies must do more, maybe we will end our alliances, let them get nukes to a very different approach.
The second point that I would make about the White House is the changeover of the national security establishment from Mr Flint to General McMaster and the removal of Mr Bannon from the NSC, the reinsertion of the chief of staff in the intelligence community is an inaudible tradition. And third remember we still have a congress that allocates money and sets laws relaying our foreign relations. They will always govern what we can and can’t do and where we can spend the money. That mainstream in congress is pretty establishment on both the Democratic and the Republican side. If you look at the armed services committee, the foreign affairs committee, the intelligence committee, this is a fairly, very sensible, all-standing, traditional approach to American equities in the region.
I think these 3 things are now bounding the White House. Now what the Presidents own personal inaudible will be in certain areas of policy such as trade etc. it’s unclear to me, I don’t know anyone who knows. But I’m not sure that the President himself has made final decisions about this but that’s how I would characterise it. There seems to be some very much structural drivers towards a more recognisable approach to these relations.
In some cases I think this is unfortunate and I think it’s unfortunate to move from taking a call with the Taiwan President to move to re-asserting them on China because now we have made an unfortunate opening to Taiwan and then closed the loop in a way with Beijing. Instead what we should be indevering to do is recognising our important stakes with Taiwan whilst continuing to manage this very complicated US-China relationship.
Thank you very much.
Bob Stewart MP
Before I open to the floor can I just ask one question. I personally think that putting people like mad dogs, Mathias and other military officers into positions of influence behind, underneath the President is a good check and balance because with an ex-military background myself I consider that Generals actually understand war and don’t want to get there. So in a way that a very good thing it’s a very good check and balance from my point of view as a politician. Watching what’s happening in Washington which leads me to my question, my question is the President of the United States has suggested to North Korea that he will not tolerate them doing anymore missile testing, firing, practising, whatever. So if he won’t tolerate it, that’s a red line, then what can he do about it? What actually can he do if that funny little chap in North Korea with the funny haircut who everyone stands in front of taking notes of every word he says, must be charming there, that funny little fellow, if he decides or his regime assuming he’s in control of it which I think he probably is from the body language of all these fellows writing, if he decides to hell with you I’m going to continue doing missile firing, what can President Trump do?
Well I think some of the options which are obviously not out in the open domain on his list of things will be bueracy and defence establishment. We know for a fact there’s been allegations or suggestions that he’s maybe used cyber tools to work on missiles so that they don’t proceed. We can ramp up even further including secondary sanctions on China though I am not sure that will be very effective on the missiles themselves. Thirdly there is a lot of press talk about pre-emption of an actual missile launch or missile test would be an act of war….
Bob Stewart MP
You mean a strike? If you strike you’ve got to strike everywhere and that’s pretty extensive, simultaneously and that would kill a lot of people.
There’s no question about that which is why I think that…
Bob Stewart MP
Well they won’t be successful
I think it will be difficult to do also if our allies are not on board for doing it.
Bob Stewart MP
Which they wouldn’t be.
Well there will be no elected government of Korea for a month the latest press estimates are there are aircraft carriers that will be there until the 25th earliest because it was not headed in inaudible direction and the third is it is unclear that Japan and others aren’t working with us on other options including with China.
So it remains to be seen there are options I am sure there are contingency and operational plans for doing all kinds of things but I would hazard a guess that war of the kind was mostly discussing the last of them and I don’t think it’s…
Bob Stewart MP
Obama laid down a red line on Syria an then ignored it, Trump has just laid down a red line on North Korea and I suspect that he won’t be able to do much about it. The lesson is surely don’t lay down red lines because actually you get screwed by it.
Anyway I’ve talked too much, you’re here to listen to an expert yes sir what would you like to ask.
Ian Bowman from the Centre for European Reform. Satu thank you very much it’s always a pleasure to see you in London. I thought you skated over a couple of countries in your presentation possibly because the chairman’s hot breath was on the back of your neck but that was India and Russia. It seems to me that the Obama administration you know tried to build up relations with India in part as a counter balance to China and South East Asia there are various kinds of tri-lateral operations with India, the US and Japan and so on. And then there has also been a suggestion that you know getting into bed with the Russians that it essentially reversed the process that you did in the 60s and early 70s when it was sort of getting to bed with the Peoples Republic in order to counter balance the Soviet Union. Now there was a suggestion that you get into bed with Russia in order to counter balance China so I would be quite interested to know whether you see any evidence of the second and whether the Trump administration has thought about India at all?
India’s very important because Colonel Bob Stewart asked a question about what made it a rebalance, I think two things one as I said was bringing India into our Asia policy was a huge bureaucratic and organisational concept. They are different parts of the state department, there in different parts of our pacific plan except congress and military structure but the point is India is being seen for the first time in the brother Indo-Pacific Asia in the US strategic defence policy. It’s not fully there it’s not Japan it’s not Korea and not South East Asia yet. So that’s the case.
I think the Trump administration General McMaster was in India and Pakistan in these last 48 hours so there’s no good reading yet where he is on the strategic issue but he did meet with Prime Minister Modi and the national security advisor. I would expect that the structural drivers are an improved US-India relationship meaning defence, naval cooperation and others. I don’t think it matter which administration is in power and part of it is not only a supply side interest from the United States but a demand side from India to be more cooperative with the United States and it inaudible…
So I think that drivers there I think Trump, what will complicate the Trump administrations relationship with India is essentially this – his view on worker visas the so-called H1B visas for we have a lot of Indian workers in the United States under those visas and second how he comes down on the trade and investment issues and the barriers that India poses to US trade and economic commerce.
On Russia it’s an absolutely fascinating question. As you all know here and read the papers Russia was amongst the most extraordinary debates in my life time in US elections, about their involvement in US elections, the Trump administrations relations, I haven’t a clue there are multiple congressional committees investigating these allegations, they will come out with their reports in due course but what I do know is this. Suddenly we are in a place where the President is using the language that we are at an all-time low in our relationship with Russia which three weeks ago he was accused of being very close to Russia. This change suggests to me that this will be the first administration that has taken office in the last 3 decades that will not attempt to reset relations with Russia.
It’s the converse of the China. Every US President in their campaign comes to office criticising China. Every President who takes to office and completes office finds a way to work out some sort of relationship with China. Not perfect disagreements on human rights and religious freedom, on trade, on security but a way from keeping it from breaking up. The Russian relationship now is sold which brings up the very interesting question can we disaggregate or deconstruct the Russia relationship in Europe vice versa Russia and Ukraine against the Russian relationship in Asia.
Let me be on record in my own personal, private capacity believing if we should look for ways believing if there is some form of cooperation with Russia possible in Asia. Even as we and as we should disagree with Russian behaviour inaudible – why? Because the strategic contours of Asia are quite different from the strategic contours of Europe and Russia’s behaviour in Europe is not its behaviour in Asia. It is also important that many of our key allies and partners have some relationship between Russia and Asia that could be useful to my countries interests. Japan has such a relationship or are trying to build such a relationship, Korea has such a relationship because of their needs regarding North Korean negotiations, South East Asia has such relations, India has such relations. Is there something that is useful for us to do together in the Asia Pacific region – I think it’s worth exploring? I don’t think this is a first priority in Asia but I think it’s worth exploring.
Bob Stewart MP
Thank you chairman I represent inaudible in Kuala Lumpa. Two questions the first one is where is the source of policy making in the Trump Whitehouse or the Trump administration do we know is it the national security council, is it the Oval office, is it the Pentagon, is it the state department where exactly policy inaudible. That’s one thing I would be grateful to hear from you about.
And a structural issue the last 3 reports from the intelligence council over the last 12 odd years each of them in slightly different languages have suggested that the system is increasingly multi-polar or it is moving in that direction. The United States to maintain its global leadership has to acknowledge and adapt itself to that reality. Is this something that you see the Trump administration being more acutely aware of and how different is it from the Obama administrations perceptions? Thank you.
Let me start with your second question first because it is actually a much easier question than the political. I haven’t a clue where the hatchment of policy making centre is in President Trumps Whitehouse. In any administration there are multiple locus’s of decision making they are contested they is a principle meaning they get adjudicated and principles that if it has to it goes to the President, he or she decides what our policy is going to be. In this Whitehouse we are not at 100 days yet it’s been an unusually tremulous in its transitional period.
Look on the question of multi-polar relative power those reports are right. The United States are relatively a smaller power than it once was but I hasten to add 3 or 4 things which are worth remembering. To my mind the strategic and analysis way to think about this at least is Asia is concerned, they are US-Asia relations, US-China relations, China-Asia relations and inter-Asia relations, relations within Asia – Japan and India, Japan and Australia whatever.
Of these 4 sets of relationships the US-Asia and the US-China relationships are and will remain structurally better than China-Asia and inter-Asia relations. Japan and inaudible are not going to be friends, China and India are not going to be friends, Russia and China are not going to be great friends. The reason that’s important is it speaks to power. It speaks to the power that although there may be a relative decline, US relationships with both sets of key relationships in Asia will be better than internal ones.
The second way to think about it is the US has allies, other countries in the region don’t and if you take American power with allied power, where still far ahead of inaudible.
Third the US is not in decline. There may be a relative GDP level offset but in terms of the problems we face, we face the problems of any society – education, environmental, economic, trade but look compared to what? Compared to declining demographics, compared to regime stability if you want to take a bet 20 years out which country is most going to look like the country here today, the Asia Pacific and the United States but not China.
So I think there’s a lot of room to be not flippant, not complacent, not arrogant but there are a set of structural drivers that make for American inaudible. The final factor is there is a really high demand side for US presence. Many of our allies in the region work to sustain and prime our inaudible right when people think the United States treaty when the United States got thrown out of bases in the Philippines through a senate vote in the 1990s, Singapore picked up the slack. When the United States was unsure after the Cold War what did countries do? Offer new incentives for the US to remain engaged.
So the demand pull for the US presence is high and we have no territorial claim, no sovereignty claim, no inaudible over territory. We are occasionally quite annoying to others about the demands for human rights but I think this should be our policy not our get out. This is very different from being misaligned with China on a new security concept or the nine dash lines. Those are good positions on your sovereign territory. They’re in position with who you can be allies with, who you might be able to trade. The US is making no such demands. This myth that there’s a choice between US and China is a myth propagated by small, middle powers who have no choice. If anything small, middle powers in the region including in the South China Sea, are trying to make the US or China chose them. We’re not asking them to choose.
So for all of these reasons the US presence is an incredibly volitary presence in which primacy is maintained by global rules, norms, orders and statistician with power. And that makes us very credible and sustainable in Asia, if we chose to be. The choice is ours.
Can I just make one quick interruption, do you want to stay on Chatham House rules when it comes to this overall Q+A session?
I think we’re past that now.
Ok if you would like to take his quotes and write them or whatever could you please address him after the meeting that is all I would ask.
James Kipper from a inaudible.. we do computer gaming, we also do massive scale simulation and I’m interested to pick up your last point where traditionally, I guess my question is about foreign policy as entertainment inaudible bits of this country when America has got a President who enjoys the entertaining in a dangerous way in foreign policy terms. If you have got that sort of President and if you’ve got rising tides inaudible.. or indeed existing tides of inaudible in Japan, Korea and China with the need for if you like diversionary tactics inaudible… economic forums inaudible…. 1914 going back there is this foreign policy seen as a game?
James first of all it is great to see you, I’m not sure where there yet, I’m not sure where there. I know it’s, I think it’s fair to say that President Trump is one of the more unusual politicians to emerge out of our society. It does not necessarily mean he thinks of it as a game. His style is characterized by three things – deal making, as he has said over and over I look for ways to get profits, results that are produced to my agenda and my countries agenda.
Two it’s very personal. It is a personal approach, it isn’t, his corporation and his business are not a factor in his real estate and deal making so it is not institutionalised. It’s needing someone keeping them off balance to get the gain of a business deal. And thirdly he’s very familiar, a high trust factor on family.
This doesn’t mean it’s a game, it means that it’s an approach towards government, an approach towards management which is different from a highly institutionalised, bureaucratic, developed America system. But as you can see the bureaucracy does bite back. The bureaucracy does get a hold of things. Ultimately you have to pass a budget, you have to get legal authorities, the military has to give you operations, plans and options for dealing with various matters.
So as that learning experience arises and again it is hard to believe it’s only been 100 days it does seem like a tiring set of months but we are only at 100 days and you can already see if you will the kind of adjustments that are being set. Will there be resistance to them, I think there will be on particular issues that maybe the President feels deeply about like trade and economics but you know the worst hasn’t happened. 45% of inaudible has not been imposed, currency manipulators have not been named. We have asked for 16 countries with trade deficits to have a public hearing. We have alluded to renegotiating and revising reforms in Africa but we haven’t done that. We have pulled out of PPA that’s fair to say but again the agreement exists, a lot of negotiating room went into that. So I’m a little less worried.
As for nationalism in Asia, I’ve been watching nationalism in Asian for 40 years and I’m not convinced that the nationalism in Japan today is any different from the 3 and a half years when I was there in the early 90s. I think Japanese foreign policy establishment and I think the defence establishment and the Prime Minister are looking for more autonomy than the elephants, looking for room to quote I don’t like this inaudible… normalise Japan’s defence behaviour. But these are very small steps, it does not worry me yet, it’s worth watching.
Colonel Bob thank you, Peter inaudible… if the US and India relations are to move towards a more constructive era how do you think that leaves US-Pakistan relations?
Bob Stewart MP
Did you hear that at the back? Good because I can’t hear very well.
The question was if US-India relations improve what will be the implications for the US-Pakistan relationship. I would tell you in the US system we do not quite US-India and US-Pakistan no longer in the same bandwidth. We have a very different relationship with India now than we did 10 years ago, 15 years ago. So first of all our policy with India is not dependant on what India does or does not do to Pakistan. We have a set of equity boxes I will give you an example of what has worked well with Pakistan, combining our armed forces inaudible… so we have good naval cooperation.
I think it would be indelicate, but not inaccurate to say we have a terrible relationship with Pakistan inaudible I think that General McMaster in Pakistan is to do something inaudible and we have troops in the region and we have causalities in the region and we are very concerned about that.
So the Pakistan relationship is quite different from, on this subject. The US-India relationship almost has a life of its own, separate to Pakistan. Does it constrain and does it occasionally interrupt the US-India relationship no question but we had a US-India relationship interruption because of it over a minor squabble over the status of an India diplomat, it had nothing to do with Pakistan. Our relations with US-India naval cooperation which I was just speaking at IISS on the India-US navy strategy is going along fine irrespective of cooperation with Pakistan. Are there places where they intercept and do constrain, yes it’s no longer the same relationship that it was previously we’re really looking at India as part of a larger framework in the Indo Pacific region including I might add like with our allies like Japan which is imperfect. Australia, India, Japan, Australia, US, Japan. For linking together a set of networks which India is very much a potential partner or actual partner.
Peter inaudible… just to mention if I mean if inaudible… launch a missile test, the US are likely to go strike, a pre-empted strike against North Korea and…
He didn’t say that he said it was a possibility, one of the options.
Ok, right. So what if the similar strike against Syria inaudible… federal spaces be conducted against Korea and inaudible… nuclear weapons and it has inaudible… it will use it against the US or against neighbours like South Korea or Japan and maybe even China inaudible… because North Korea and China the chemicals have changed a little bit. So what would you see the consequences if the US does launch a pre-emptive strike against North Korea, the missile site.
What do I think would happen if North Korea and the US launched a strike? I think we’d be heading towards war on the Korean peninsula. I can’t think of any other outcome. I do not see North Korea’s military taking the hit and not launching an attack on, remember we have 35-37,000 armed US forces deployed in Korea. Remember that. We have American lives at stake not to mention our ally’s lives in Korea and Japan. It is very difficult for me to imagine we do a pre-emptive strike or any kind of strike on North Korea without retaliation of Korean forces on Japan and South Korea. It’s impossible for me to imagine.
Then the question is we, you know, what then? Look as my friend Victor Chan one of our leading experts on North Korea in the Whitehouse says’ Korea’s a land of lousy options.’ We don’t have any good options.
I will say one thing about Korea, North Korea I should say, is no question that China is adjacent geographically and therefore huge, vitally critical and South Korea obviously and that 80% or so of other trade get into. But I will just remind you of the incidence of 2 months ago in Malaysia, whatever those intrepid’s and other things to be, the fact is North Korea also has diplomatic relations with multiple countries including US allies and friends. I also mentioned that North Korea has trading, diplomatic and other relationships including visa free waivers from Malaysia with Malaysia.
So North Korea is in my judgement, my analytical judgement wildly dependant on North Korea erm on China but it is not as isolated, as near collapse and as unintegrated into the international system as might be traditionally believed. That raises two sets of policy prescription options. Option 1 – sanction the heck out of everybody else, take the Malaysian’s to town, the Singaporeans to town, the India to town, I could list the other countries. Or you can find ways to try and entice North Korea out of its situation. No-one is suggesting that this would be easy or smooth to contemplate but they may be a long light path trajectory where you combine sanctions with enticements. I would note in the history of nuclearlisation we have pursued multiple strategies for de-nuclearlisation. South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, India etc. India’s maintained because we at some point recognised and put certain types of limitations on them.
So are there some kind of deal like that possible, negotiated? I’m not at the point where I would give up hope for those tools being played out. This is a long game.
Now if something sudden happened and there was a collapse or an assignation or something then all bets are on but what I’m suggesting is that there may be more tools than the tool in the toolkit which we normally think which is either strikes or gets China to do it or there might be some calibrated policy tools in that set.
Bob Stewart MP
Gentleman at the back who’s looking down you wanted to ask a question. Can you stand up and talk loudly I’ve got really bad hearing, I have got gunner ear, my ear was taken away by guns.
Inaudible… how can America Inaudible… how can it deal with Inaudible…Pacific issues like Russia and the Middle East. Do you think inaudible…. In North Korea Inaudible…
As I said the Iran deal I am very weary of comparison of the Iran deal with a North Korean deal and the short is I don’t know. But what I am suggesting is that we have a number of tools and a number of approaches for handling countries with nuclear weapons. The international community and the United States have had multiple kinds of intersections even with US-Russia relationships, Ian knows a lot about this, but how we dispense the surplus inaudible all kinds of deals. What I am suggesting is the toolkit may be bigger than we think it is. Whether it is the South American, Iran then there may be deals.
As for the US being a big power let me just say I grew up on the Pacific coast. For us it’s not the Far East it’s the Far West. The United States have been moving and rebalancing towards the equator after we created 15 colonies on the East Coast.
Bob Stewart MP
Disgraceful. If you played it right, if 1776 had gone right for you, you could have had Her Majesty the Queen as your head of state. You realise that don’t you, yank.
So the reality is we’ve been moving across this combination of war, treaties and good and bad behaviour but we’re on the West Coast and we’re looking out. We’re a resident pal in the Pacific, we a great military presence amongst treaty allies and democracies. We’re resident power in terms of territory in terms of Guam and other territories in the Pacific. We are Asian by the fact if you look at direct investment, our trade ratios, our student population and our ethnicity. As you know Asian Americans are the fasting growing American inaudible…
So any attempts to create a narrative outside of Asia, they’re not interested in Asia, they don’t have any stakes in it isn’t true. And you know we have our weaknesses but we are a pretty capable power and we often inaudible at the same time.
If we get it right we can be in the Middle East and in America and in Europe and in Asia at the same time and we have proven it through unfortunately since 15, 16 years since 2001 with difficulties in Palestine and Iraq whilst simultaneously producing pretty good centred results for America. Not perfect results but pretty good results.
So that would be my pitch for why we could do multiple things at the same time.
Bob Stewart MP
Satu I think that was exactly when I read about you it said you were excellent and I think we’ve had an excellent briefing and I thank you very much for coming. This Committee Room 12 in the House of Commons on this historic day for us. I think we should give Satu when I finish my concluding remarks a round of applause. Thank you.