U.S. Secretary of State Blinken and Secretary of Defense Austin arrived in Japan on the 15th to begin their first visit to Asia. The two men pointed their fingers at China before setting out. Austin first visited the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command headquarters in Honolulu, Hawaii, on the 14th, claiming that “China is the main threat” and declaring that he wanted to create a “credible deterrent” against China. He and Blinken also co-authored an article in the Washington Post on the 15th, saying that they want to rebuild and strengthen the alliance to deal with the “Chinese threat”. In response, the Japanese and South Korean media talked about relations between the allies, on the one hand, but carefully avoided directly targeting China on the other. Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, another U.S. ally in Asia, recently said publicly that “Singapore cannot choose sides if there is a conflict between China and the U.S”.. Singapore’s “Lianhe Zaobao” also warned in an editorial on the 15th that “it is necessary to be wary of the ‘China threat theory’, that has been gaining momentum from time to time, developing into a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ that no one wants to see. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on the 15th that in the era of globalization, drawing lines based on ideology, ganging up and engaging in small cliques against specific countries is what undermines the international order and is unpopular. Ultimately, it will leave no way out.
U.S. pulls allies to create “credible deterrence” against China
According to the Japan Broadcasting Association (NHK) 15, U.S. Secretary of Defense Austin first arrived at the U.S. military base in Yokota, Japan, on a special flight at around 3 p.m. that day, and then switched to a helicopter to inspect the U.S. military base in Roppongi, in central Tokyo. Secretary of State John Blinken arrived in Japan at around 8:30 p.m. According to reports, the U.S. and Japan will hold a meeting of in the afternoon of the 16th, followed by a “2+2” meeting between foreign and defense ministers. In the evening, Blinken and Austin will also go to the Japanese Prime Minister’s residence to meet with Yoshihide Suga.
According to AFP, this is the first visit to Asia for Blinken and Austin, and their first foreign trip since taking office. They will hold “2+2” talks with Japan and South Korea, followed by Austin’s visit to India, while Blinken will attend the U.S.-China Senior Officials Dialogue in Anchorage, Alaska, on the 18th together with U.S. Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Sullivan. “This trip is focused on strengthening relationships with allies and also to strengthen military capabilities,” Austin declared during a visit to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command headquarters in Honolulu, Hawaii, on the 14th. “Our intent is to ensure that we have the capabilities and action plans in place to pose a credible deterrent to China or any other country that wants to challenge the United States”.
On the occasion of the trip, Blinken and Austin said in a joint article in The Washington Post on 15 May that “allies are force multipliers for the U.S. military.” According to the article, they made Asia the site of their first foreign trip because the Indo-Pacific region has become the center of global geopolitics, with its billions of people, several powers that have risen or are rising, and five treaty-bound U.S. allies. In addition, a significant portion of the world’s trade is conducted through its sea lanes. The article also attacks China’s policies on Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
It was the first foreign visit by a top Biden Administration cabinet official and is seen as part of a larger effort by the Biden Administration to increase U.S. influence in Asia and appease concerns about the U.S. role in the region, ABC said. After four years of “transactional and temperamental” relations with allies like Japan and South Korea in the Trump Administration, the trip to Asia by top Cabinet officials is meant to restore Washington’s close ties with Tokyo and Seoul, the report said. Biden has signaled at the beginning of his term that he will put the Indo-Pacific at the top of the U.S. foreign policy agenda. In keeping with the diplomatic theme of “America back” , Biden pledged to make maintaining stability in the region the centerpiece of his international action initiatives.
Mixed feelings in Japan and South Korea
In response to a senior U.S. Cabinet official shouting about the “China threat” before his visit to Asia, and his claim that he wants to bring allies together to create a “credible deterrent” against China, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a press conference on May 15 that China has always been a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development, and a defender of international order. China’s development is a growing force for world peace and an opportunity, not a challenge, for the world. What China has always firmly upheld is the international system with the United Nations at its core and the international order based on international law, not the international order defined by individual countries to maintain their hegemony.
In fact, Japan and South Korea have mixed feelings about the joint visit of the U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense. Japanese and South Korean media have lauded senior U.S. Cabinet officials for choosing Japan and South Korea for their first visits, but rarely have they publicly declared their intention to directly target China militarily, as the United States has done. According to the Asahi Shimbun, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshichika Mogi said during a Senate debate on the 15th that the U.S.-Japan ‘ meeting and the “2+2” talks “will discuss the issue of China”. He said, “Not long after the Biden Administration assumed office, the two senior U.S. officials made Japan their first foreign visit, and this is an opportunity to show the world that the Japan-U.S. alliance was unshakable”.
According to the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the importance the U.S. attaches to Japan is a mixed blessing. If it were simply because of the importance attached to Japan, top U.S. officials would not be so anxious to win over Japan. The reason why the Biden regime is in such a hurry must be that it has access to a wide range of classified information and has a strong sense of crisis about the status quo. With reference to the assessment that the total power of the United States far exceeds that of China in military terms, the report asks if the U.S. (military) advantage over China will be shaken in the event of a conflict between United States and China in the Asia-Pacific region? It answers the question affirmatively, “yes,” because it will take a long time for the U.S. to concentrate and bring its worldwide war effort to the Asia-Pacific region. According to the report, Japan’s Abe government has secretly held a number of military war game exercises, envisioning various scenarios around Japan. The results have given Japan a great shock as all of them show that the U.S. military and Japan’s Self Defense Forces in the Indo-Pacific combined against China are at a disadvantage.
Compared with Japan’s mixed feelings, South Korea is more worried. According to the Korea Economy 15, South Korea is under increasing pressure as the U.S. is increasingly blatantly pressing other countries to join the Quadrilateral alliance to contain China. Yonhap News Agency said that although the U.S. is trying hard to piece together the U.S.-Japan-South Korea military alliance for the purpose of encircling China, most opinions within the South Korean military believe that it will be difficult for the South Korean side to accept the U.S. request to institutionalize joint U.S.-Japan-South Korea cementing through training etc. in the short term, considering the current South Korean national sentiment.
In fact, the U.S. alliance against China in the Indo-Pacific is of no benefit to the security of this region. The visit of the senior US officials is overshadowed even before they arrive in Japan and South Korea, the US failure on the North Korea issue, which has a bearing on the security of the Asia-Pacific. CNN said another focus of the visit of Blinken and Austin to Japan and South Korea was the North Korean nuclear issue. The report quoted a senior U.S. official as saying that the Biden Administration “has been trying to reach out to the North Korean government through multiple channels since mid-February to reduce the risk of escalation,” but “so far we have not received any response from Pyongyang.
Shen Dingli, a Professor at Fudan University’s Graduate School of International Studies, said in an interview with the Huan Qiu Shi Bao on the 15th that the U.S. declaration to work with its allies to establish a “credible deterrent” against China is the first time the U.S. has made such a statement so clearly. It has been the strategic intent of successive U.S. Administrations to establish a strong deterrent against China. The U.S. has wanted to establish a trilateral alliance between the U.S., Japan and South Korea against China since the Obama era, but talk is talk and action is action. The U.S. has not been successful so far.
Shen Dingli said that people in different walks of life have doubts about the military deterrence of China by the once confident United States military being credible now, after the rapid growth of China’s military power, He said Obama’s attempt to do this ended in failure, and that the Biden Administration will only fail even more if it does so now. This is because, these allies have their own national interests calculations.
Asian countries do not want to choose sides
“Biden’s foreign policy agenda has two central goals: to rebuild relations with frustrated allies and to build a united front on China”. The New York Times of the 14th said that it will not be easy to achieve these two points. China took effective control measures in the early days of the new corona pneumonia outbreak and has largely restored economic growth while the West is still struggling to fight the epidemic. To get there, the U.S. hopes to rely on the support of allies like Japan and South Korea, the report said. But Japan and South Korea are both trying to walk a delicate line on China: Both countries differ from China on security and human rights, but their economic prosperity depends on trade with Beijing.
The Wall Street Journal says there is a misalignment with U.S. interests in the countries which the U.S. is trying to bring together as it seeks to coordinate its strategy toward China. Some U.S. officials say the Biden Administration’s plan to bring allies together to confront China is being tested, especially by the possibility of a counterattack by Beijing over actions by some US allies to challenge China.
Whether it is Japan or South Korea, Shen Dingli said, the overall risk of security problems between China and them has decreased rather than increased compared with the past. South Korea, for example, has learned a lesson on the “THAAD” issue. At present, the security differences between China and South Korea are under control,, and bilateral trade and economic ties are closer, South Korea benefits more than it would have from the U.S.-Korea relationship, and the more China develops, the more South Korea benefits. South Korea is less likely than ever before to side with the United States against China.
Many Asia-Pacific countries are concerned that the U.S. manufacture of the “China threat” could put the entire region at risk. The BBC aired an interview with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on 14th May. Lee Hsien Loong said, “If China and the United States are in conflict, Singapore can not choose sides”. Previously, Lee Hsien Loong said that although Asian countries want to cooperate with the United States, “not many countries are willing to join an alliance that would exclude other countries, especially a Cold War-style alliance without China”. Singapore’s “Lianhe Zaobao” said in an editorial on the 15th that it is necessary to be wary of the “China threat theory” that has been gaining momentum from time to time as it might develop into a “self-fulfilling prophecy” that no one wants to see. According to the report, the United States and China must be “careful and do some careful thinking” and not regard each other as competitors who are to be eliminated or suppressed.