China Is Furious With Rex Tillerson

U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson looks on during a joint news conference with Canadian Foreign Minister Freeland and Mexican Foreign Minister Videgaray in Mexico City

The U.S. Secretary of State’s recent pointed words—and Beijing’s subsequent furious response—indicate Xi is worried America is finally prepared to disrupt China’s inroads into Latin America.

President Trump’s apparent national security ruminations aside, Latin America has not been at the forefront of this White House’s thinking so far.

Barack Obama was arguably even less interested—or wanted an even more understated role—says Farnsworth. But that could all change, if the region becomes an open arena for great-power conflict.

The U.S. National Security Strategy (NSS) paints a picture of a stark return to history, and has the fingerprints of hardliners all over it: “a Peter Navarro powerpoint,” a former senior administration official said of the NSS, name-checking the China hawk Navarro, director of the National Trade Council at the White House.

Times Have Changed

“China has a low-profile but important physical military presence in Latin America,” argues a report put out by the Strategic Studies Institute. “[China] has expanded the quantity and scope of its military-to-military contacts at the institutional level…. In addition to arms sales and contacts between the [Chinese People’s Liberation Army] and Latin American militaries, select commercial interactions must be considered as part of its military engagement.

Moreover, Russia, the traditional U.S. foil in the region remains, of course, a factor in the region. The Russian foreign ministry announced Tuesday: “Our policy towards Latin America is open, not ideologized, has no closed agenda and is not directed against anyone,” but noted clearly: “We value independence of this region.”

Curt Mills is a foreign-affairs reporter at the National Interest. Follow him on Twitter: @CurtMills.

Image: Reuters