Iran, North Korea, and China are making threats. Expecting to escape Trump’s sanctions, accountability, and trade policies, they anticipate Biden’s team will be unwilling to deter or respond. Biden’s national security team must quickly disabuse our malefactors of this idea.
Start with facts. Iran has not only accelerated uranium enrichment to 20 percent purity, one step from weapons-grade, but undertaken sobering threats. A week ago, they swore vengeance on the US and Trump for targeting terrorist Qassem Soleimani, and for Israel’s reported targeting of a nuclear weapons scientist, Mohsen Fakrizadeh. This triggered Trump keeping the USS Nimitz in the Gulf – signaling that threats have consequences. See, e.g., https://www.wsj.com/articles/iran-begins-enriching-uranium-to-20-purity-11609760613?mod=politics_lead_pos3; https://www.wsj.com/articles/uss-nimitz-to-stay-in-middle-east-to-counter-iran-threat-on-anniversary-11609731629?mod=politics_featst_pos2.
Similarly, when Iran rattled sabers in December, the US deployed an Ohio-class nuclear submarine, USS Georgia to surface near Iran, flanked by cruisers. These submarines rarely surface. The message was clear. With 154 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles, the sub was all business. Threats are answered. See, e.g., https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/38326/message-to-iran-navy-sends-guided-missile-submarine-on-rare-trip-into-the-persian-gulf.
Similarly, as other belligerence has surfaced – including Iran’s seizure of an allied South Korean tanker and an anonymous threat on the US Capitol coinciding with the anniversary of Soleimani’s death – assets were repositioned. In early January, two nuclear-capable B-52H aircraft were sent to the Middle East. Message again was clear – Trump does not abide threats. See, e.g., https://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/533081-the-iranian-and-internal-threat-to-america; https://www.reuters.com/article/iran-tanker/update-2-south-korean-flagged-tanker-seized-by-iran-media-reports-idUSL1N2JF0L8.
Facts tied to North Korea are similar. In short, after Trump is gone, expect rules to change. Laughably, when Biden dared to call Kim Jung Un a “thug” and criticized his dealings with Trump, Kim immediately threatened more nuclear tests and missile launches – which have been non-existent since Trump confronted the Communist dictator and China’s ally. See, e.g., https://www.foxnews.com/world/north-korea-threatens-to-build-more-nukes-cites-us-hostility.
China, of course, is the big dog – and the adversary Biden is most likely to accommodate, one with greatest motive and means for doing immediate and long-term harm to American economic and security interests. The Biden family history of coddling – and being coddled by – China is rich. That said, it is threats China is now issuing – just as Trump departs – that give new pause.
Last week, China issued new rules creating higher legal vulnerability for US companies, in part responding to US restriction of Communist Chinese access to US capital markets. See, e.g., https://www.barrons.com/articles/china-issues-new-rules-in-response-to-u-s-sanctions-what-could-come-next-51610227881.
Meantime, as Chinese-origin COVID ravages the world, China suddenly clamped down on scientific access to Wuhan and multilateral efforts to understand the deadly virus’s origin – which many scientists suspect is the Communist virology institute in Wuhan. A coalition of 137 countries, coordinated by WHO, was perfunctorily denied access to the country. See, e.g., https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/china-blocks-who-investigators-access-to-wuhan-20210106-p56rzu.html.
In late 2020, John Ratcliffe, US Director of National Intelligence, bluntly noted: “China poses a greater national security threat to the US than any other nation – economically, militarily, and technologically.” See, e.g., https://nypost.com/2020/09/19/why-china-is-a-threat-to-the-us-and-the-entire-free-world/. Many recognize the threat includes infiltration of the US educational system, corporate operations, government labs and agencies via cyberattack, and even the electoral process. See, e.g., https://townhall.com/columnists/dwwilber/2021/01/02/the-china-threat-is-real-and-upon-us-n2582442; https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-is-national-security-threat-no-1-11607019599; https://nationalinterest.org/feature/understanding-china-threat-37502.
Even so, the Biden team seems unmoved – ready to accommodate. China is wasting no time courting Biden, even as they continue to press a perceived advantage in trade, security, space, impinging on Hong Kong, and eyeing Taiwan. See, e.g., https://nypost.com/2020/09/05/joe-biden-once-joked-about-china-helping-him-become-president/; https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1379698/Joe-biden-China-news-Donald-trump-world-war-3-foreign-policy-ont; https://nypost.com/2020/10/27/facing-down-chinas-threat-to-invade-taiwan/; https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/china-outraged-as-u-s-to-send-its-u-n-ambassador-to-taiwan/ar-BB1czksZ?ocid=uxbndlbing.
Old China fans, like Richard Nixon’s China-opening Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, strongly urge Biden to accommodate China, not continue Trump’s insistence on accountability in trade, security, and human rights. See, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/kissinger-warns-biden-of-us-china-catastrophe-on-scale-of-wwi/ar-BB1b3OiF.
Where do these facts lead? They lead inexorably to one conclusion – Iran, North Korea, and China, not to mention non-state actors like remnants of ISIS and Taliban terrorists, will test Biden’s national security team. Put differently, they will test America – expecting Biden blinks.
Bottom line: Whatever else Biden does, America cannot blink – not in the face of aggressive, proven adversaries. Trump’s foreign policy taught deterrence works. Adversaries either respect or revile the United States, sometimes both. Whatever their disposition, Biden should follow Trump’s emphasis on international accountability. Threats cannot go unanswered. To appease or accommodate hostile, testing powers emboldens them. We cannot afford that.