China could exercise a veto against any new UN sanctions on North Korea, ignore existing sanctions and even accept the communist neighbor as a nuclear state if the incoming administration of Donald Trump plays the "Taiwan card," a US expert said.
Trump sparked China's anger by accepting a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen earlier this month in breach of the decades-long diplomatic tradition that the US has kept under its "One China" policy since severing ties with Taiwan and normalizing relations with Beijing.
China considers Taiwan a renegade province that must be unified with the mainland and rails against any support for Taiwan's independence or the notion that the island is not part of the country. Despite the absence of formal diplomatic ties, the US has maintained friendly relations with Taiwan.
On Sunday, Trump went a step further, saying he doesn't understand "why we have to be bound by a One China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade." The remark suggests Trump could use the Taiwan card in dealings with Beijing.
Analysts have raised concern that any change to the "One China" policy would upend US relations with China and seriously undermine cooperation between the two sides on a number of issues, including the North Korean nuclear standoff.
"If the United States is willing to play the Taiwan card in order to bring the Chinese down a peg, it is in incomprehensible that Beijing would take such humiliation lying down," Daniel R.
DePetris, an analyst at Wikistrat, said in an article in the National Interest.
"In fact, China could very well escalate in response by playing the North Korea card ?- a problem that Washington has shown itself powerless to tame without some buy-in from the Chinese political leadership," he said.
China could first use its status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
"If Washington begins to regularize the invitation of Taiwanese ministers to official US government functions, authorizes the travel of senior US officials to Taiwanese soil, or even arranges?let alone holds?face-to-face meetings between Trump and Tsai on the sidelines of various Asian summits, the Chinese will have no compunction or hesitancy in using their veto power to block more sanctions packages against North Korea," he said.
"One could call such retaliation a childish eye-for-an-eye, but that doesn't make it any less effective. Throwing sand in the gears at the UN on anything and everything related to the DPRK could be just the right amount of tough medicine to get Washington to back off," the analyst said.
DePetris also said China would also ignore existing sanctions on Pyongyang altogether, including the latest package that puts a significant cap on North Korea's exports of goal, the single biggest export item and source of hard currency for the impoverished nation.
Moreover, China could even recognize Pyongyang's nuclear weapons, he said, adding that China has already been coexisting with a nuclear North Korea for the past 10 years, and that Pyongyang's nuclear program has provided Beijing with more leverage over the US, rather than hurting Chinese interests.
"Although official acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear-weapons state would certainly be a complete 180-degree turn for the Asian superpower, a more extensive and formalized US-Taiwanese relationship would be perceived as such a dire threat to China's national security that a policy reversal on the DPRK wouldn't be out of the question," DePetris said. (Yonhap)