Former Ambassador John Bolton: Trump Needs to Renegotiate 'One China' Policy

'We support the people of Taiwan. We support their continued self-government.'

John Bolton / AP
February 27, 2017

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton on Friday urged President Donald Trump to upend four decades of precedent by renegotiating the "One China" policy that denies Taiwan's sovereignty.

Bolton told the Washington Free Beacon in an exclusive interview that the One China policy, which was established during President Richard Nixon's visit to China in 1972, is "ahistorical" and fails to reflect the current reality in East Asia, where natives of Taiwan overwhelmingly identify as "Taiwanese" rather than "Chinese."

"The One China policy is inherently ambiguous," Bolton said. "China thinks it means one thing, we think it means another."

Beijing maintains that One China means the People's Republic of China is the sole legitimate China, encompassing Taiwan.

But the Shanghai Communiqué agreed to by the United States and China explicitly says the United States "acknowledged" that "all Chinese" on either side of the Taiwan Straight believe "there is but one China." The pact does not deny Taiwan's sovereignty on its face.

"A clear relationship with both Beijing and Taipei on this would help all concern rather than [having] this phrase which means anything and nothing," Bolton said.

Earlier in the day, Bolton told an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside of Washington, D.C., that the Trump administration needs to "make clear" there will never be reunification between China and Taiwan without the "express, overwhelming consent" of those living in Taiwan.

"It's time for constructive clarity," Bolton said. "We support the people of Taiwan. We support their continued self-government, independent of China."

Bolton predicted that China will be the top strategic issue facing the United States in the 21st century. He said the president needs to immediately demand that China back down in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

Bolton also suggested the Trump administration pressure China to pursue Korean reunification to "eliminate" the North Korean regime. He urged the president to end the Iran nuclear deal "as soon as possible" and said the United States needs to renegotiate the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia so that the United States can rebuild its nuclear deterrent in the face of Moscow's ongoing treaty violations.

"There's only one country in the world that's bound by this treaty—China's not bound by it, North Korea and Iran aren't bound by it, theoretically Russia is, but they don't pay any attention to it," Bolton said. "There's only one country that can't build intermediate-range nuclear forces and that's us."

Bolton is a vocal advocate of an expansive U.S. foreign policy that promotes American values abroad. He says the greatest threat to the nation is "self-induced weakness" that was characteristic during the Obama years.

The former ambassador told the Free Beacon he believes Trump would be successful in reversing many of former President Obama's foreign policy initiatives within his first term, especially if he models his actions after the Reagan administration.

"It took Reagan a substantial amount of time to create a defense expenditure buildup to give us the kinds of military force that we needed to speak from a position of true strength, and I think Trump is going to have to go through the same process with correcting the mistakes of the eight Obama budgets," Bolton said.

"At the same time, Reagan said right from the beginning that he was going to pursue a very different foreign policy and the political strength of his determination to do that gave us cover while we rebuilt the military and I think Trump should follow that approach too … It would've been a lot different if we had a Clinton administration and had not just an eight-year hole to climb out of but a 12-year hole," he added.

Bolton was a finalist to fill the national security adviser position left open by the resignation of retired Gen. Mike Flynn.

Trump said the administration would ask Bolton to serve in a "somewhat different capacity" after it announced the selection of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster for national security adviser on Monday.

"John is a terrific guy. We had some really good meetings with him. Knows a lot," Trump said from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. "He had a good number of ideas that I must tell you I agree very much with. So we’ll be talking with John Bolton in a different capacity."

Bolton did not comment on those talks.

Published under: China , John Bolton , Taiwan