Former national security adviser H. R. McMaster on Sunday said Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to China “may portray a bit of weakness” amid heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington.
“I think China’s sending a message, ‘Hey, we’re in charge now. You’re finished’ to the West and to the United States. And, and I think it’s indicative of what they hope to achieve … which is to create kind of an exclusionary area of primacy across the Indo-Pacific region. They’ve laid claim to the ocean in the South China Sea, for example,” McMaster, who served in the Trump administration, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“So I think this really calls for us to have a strong response, I think … with Secretary Blinken’s visit there, it may portray a bit of weakness,” he said.
Pressed on what he meant by the comment, McMaster said he thinks China is hoping to, with Blinken’s trip, “create a perception that we’re going there to pay homage to the Chinese Communist Party, because they want to use that kind of perception of China’s strength relative the United States to bludgeon countries in the region and say, ‘Hey, time to bandwagon with us. This is our era,’ what they call the ‘new era of international relations.’”
Blinken on Sunday kicked off meetings with Chinese officials that a U.S. State Department spokesperson called “candid, substantive, and constructive.”
It’s the first trip to China by a U.S. secretary of state since 2018. Blinken had planned to visit in February, but rescheduled amid controversy over a Chinese surveillance balloon that the U.S. military shot down after it spent days floating through American airspace.
Tensions between Beijing and Washington have been heightened by the balloon incident, among other issues, as well as by China’s relationship with Russia and by friction in the Indo-Pacific, particularly with regard to Taiwan, the self-governed island China claims as its own. White House national security spokesman John Kirby warned earlier this month that China has been getting more aggressive in the South China Sea around the island, heightening the risk of conflict.
“It’s important to have diplomacy with China. But let’s have also diplomacy with countries that might be sitting on the fence to say, Hey, your choice, really, at this moment is not between Washington and Beijing. It’s between sovereignty and servitude,” McMaster said on Sunday.
McMaster also said that the U.S. relationship with China is “worse” than its relationship with Russia during the Cold War.
“It’s worse. Because it’s a more difficult problem set because of the way that our economies have become interconnected, in large measure based on these flawed assumptions about the nature of relationship, and especially the intentions of the Chinese Communist Party,” McMaster said.
The U.S. thought that it could determine China’s party through engagement, he said, but “the Chinese Communist Party leadership had aspirations that went far beyond anything in reaction to what we do. And China really does want to establish itself as it sees it at the center.”
Source : THEHILL