Chinese President Xi Jinping is a “hard arse” and US President Donald Trump should use clear, quiet diplomacy instead of tweets in dealing with China on North Korea, former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd says.
Mr Rudd, who has returned to the US from a trip to China, said “the Chinese baseline conclusion” is Mr Trump’s threat of unilateral military action against North Korea was just “one huge bluff”.
China, because of this view, will only do a few things to try and talk North Korea into coming around to a more reasonable posture, Mr Rudd told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS on Sunday.
“This guy is a serious hard head,” said Mr Rudd, referring to Chinese President Xi. “He is a serious hard arse.
“I mean, this guy has been around for a while and if there is going to be a serious conversation here about the future of the Korean peninsula, it has to be conducted in clear, bottom line, but quiet, terms between one administration and the other.”
Mr Rudd said Mr Trump was unique to past US presidents who have dealt with the North Korean regime because he sees a virtue in his own strategic unpredictability.
“At the end of the day, if the North Koreans evolve into a fully replete nuclear weapons state with ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) with miniaturised warheads on top then, well, the Chinese view is [that] the US will then just have to accept that reality,” Mr Rudd said.
“And what none of us know is whether President Trump will ultimately accept a position in history which says, ‘I’m the guy and it was on my watch that this state finally crossed the threshold of constituting a threat to the US mainland.'”
The comments came as top Trump administration officials sought to re-assure Americans that the nation is not on the brink of nuclear war with North Korea, despite Mr Trump’s recent threats.
National Security Advisor Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster and CIA Director Mike Pompeo both used US TV appearances to stress that a North Korean attack did not appear to be imminent, and that the threat of war was no closer today than it was last week.
“I think we’re not closer to war than a week ago, but we are closer to war than we were a decade ago,” Gen. McMaster said on ABC’s This Week.
“The danger is much greater and is growing every day, with every missile test, with the consideration of possibly a sixth nuclear test. And so what we can no longer do is afford to procrastinate.”
Mr Pompeo told Fox News Sunday he had seen “no intelligence” to indicate the US was “on the cusp of nuclear war”.
Gen. McMaster said Mr Trump’s references to the US military being “locked and loaded” was an effort to maintain peace, not provoke war.
The military had made no significant movement of troops or equipment in recent days to prepare to fight North Korea, he said.
“The United States military is always locked and loaded, but the purpose of capable, ready forces is to preserve peace and prevent war,” he said.
“George Washington said it: ‘The most effective way of preserving peace is to be prepared for war.'”
The two officials spoke in the wake of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s threat last week to send missiles into the waters off Guam, a United States territory in the South Pacific. Such a flight would pass over US ally Japan and take just 14 minutes, giving the US little time to respond.
Mr Pompeo later told said CBS’ Face the Nation that it would not be surprising if North Korea sought to strengthen its nuclear arsenal and even test another missile.
While the US President wanted a denuclearised Korean peninsula, Mr Pompeo said Mr Trump was unwilling to draw red lines or pronounce future intentions.
“This administration has done a fine job of not drawing red lines that we’re not prepared to enforce,” Mr Pompeo said.
On NBC’s Meet the Press, Gen. McMaster delivered the same message.
“The President doesn’t draw red lines. What he does is he asks us to make sure that we have viable options for him, options that combine diplomatic, economic, and military capabilities,” he said. “And so that’s what we’ve done.”
By Peter Mitchell
Sydney Morning Herald