WASHINGTON – President Biden’s foreign policy agenda includes two ambitions: rebuilding relations with frustrated allies and forming a united front on China.
This week, he is attempting both as he sends two of his most senior envoys to Japan and South Korea at the highest level of foreign travel in his administration since he took office in January.
The visits of the United States’ strongest allies in East Asia are a prelude to the Biden administration’s initial round of face-to-face contact with Beijing. One of the messengers, the state Antoine j. Blinken’s secretary will travel to Alaska and join National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in a meeting with two of China’s top diplomats.
The administration sees the assembly as an opportunity to establish ground rules and red lines for the relationship Mr. Blinken called “The Greatest Geopolitical Trial of the 21st Century.” US officials told Congress last week that Washington could work with Beijing to identify those issues – and then “take it out, in very clear terms,” to identify those issues as “one-offs.” Session “.
The havoc of diplomacy, which began on Friday with a virtual summit with America’s so-called Quad allies – Australia, India and Japan, followed the Barack Obama “axis” as the Asia-Pacific top priority for the Biden administration Installs. Asia and Donald J. Trump’s explicitly transactional approach to alliances in the region.
Negotiations with less than two months of allies in the new administration also underscore the president’s goal to shore up international partnerships to counter unfavorable circumstances and further US interests.
“The more China hears, not only our opprobrium, but a course of opprobrium around the world, the better chance we will make some changes,” Mr. Blinken said at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in Washington last week.
It will not be easy. China brought Coronovirus to bring the epidemic early, which has recovered its economic situation as rivals in the West struggle to overcome. And militarily it has narrowed the gap with the United States through heavy investment. Those qualities have helped to embrace China on the global stage.
Even as Washington tried to create a new, if still wary, relationship with Beijing, US officials on Friday rejected the notion that China would observe three days of discussions in Tokyo and Seoul. Mr. Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III is expected to discuss a number of topics, including epidemics, climate change, and the large US military presence in the region.
Relations between Japan and South Korea, which have reached a low point from historical disputes, are likely to be the subject of conversation. Will also be on the agenda Month-old military coup in Myanmar And North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, which remain firmly in place following the Trump administration’s failed flirtation with North’s leader Kim Jong-un.
The decision to make Japan the first destination for Mr. Blinken and Mr. Austin was seen as an important and reassuring development in Tokyo, which worked hard to maintain a close relationship with Mr. Trump, even as he led American troops. Demanded a huge increase in payments to keep. in country. On Friday, the White House announced that Prime Minister Yoshihida Suga would be the first foreign leader to meet with Mr. Biden in Washington.
“In relation to Asia, at the end of the Trump administration, how much were we paying for cost sharing in terms of defense with our allies,” said Victor Cha, who supervised Asia policy at the White House during George’s. W. The Bush Administration and the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington recommend. “When it came to coalitions as a nation we had a unilateral approach, an almost obnoxious approach with respect to them.”
“At the same time,” Mr. Cha said, “China was using its economic leverage to threaten other countries around the region.”
The Trump administration adopted an often contradictory attitude towards China. Mr. Trump often flattered his authoritarian leader Xi Jinping, as he tried to attack trade deals. At the same time, his administration criticized Beijing’s human rights violations, military and cyberspace incursions and attacks against democracy.
The strategy of the Biden administration may prove to be just an affair. Mr. Blinken has described seeking a relationship that is at once based on cooperation, competition and, a confrontation with China.
To make it work, the United States is banking on backups from allies such as Japan and South Korea. Both countries have tried to tread a fine line on China: their prosperity depends on trade with Beijing, but they break with China in matters of security, democracy and human rights.
Tokyo has become more assertive As the Chinese military has ripped around the islands that Japan administers in the East China Sea, known as Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Seoul has used its restrained relationship with Beijing Pressure strategy against North KoreaWhich which Depends on china To preserve our economy.
For their part, China’s leaders have said that they are eager to regain the relationship with the United States. Some analysts have warned that any move toward a diplomat could buy China more time to develop technical and military capabilities before a diplomatic breakdown.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a press conference in Beijing on March 7, “As two countries with different social systems, China and the United States naturally have differences and disagreements”. , Will meet with Mr. Blinken in Alaska.
Mr. Wang called it normal for “a healthy competition to be healthy and fair and just for the purpose of self-improvement” rather than a finger pointing or a zero-sum contest.
Yet Chinese leaders appear concerned about the Biden strategy of rallying against allies in the Allies against China, something that could hurt Beijing politically and economically. Last week, for example, quad countries announced efforts to Ship Coronovirus Vaccines in Southeast Asia, Is countering China’s own efforts in so-called vaccine diplomacy.
Mr. Wang cited the epidemic, leading to economic recovery and climate change as areas where China and the United States could cooperate, although he did not provide any details. But he said that the United States and others had no right to interfere in what it described as internal affairs – Human rights abuses Against Ethnic Uygar Efforts in China’s western Xinjiang region Ending democracy in hong kong And Surveillance and Repression in Tibet.
He also drew a “red line” on the question of Taiwan, the autonomous democratic island that Beijing claims as an inadequate part of a larger China.
Days later, an American destroyer passed through the Taiwan Strait. The United States describes such trips as routine, but they are seen as hostile by China. It was the third since Mr. Biden’s arrival in office, a sign of Taiwan’s support.
However, Japanese officials are sure to get assurances from Mr. Austin that the US military will come to the aid of Japan in the event of a conflict with China on the Senkaku Islands, hoping to consume their time in Seoul with the question of resuming Is a regular large-scale military exercise with South Korea, which was abruptly canceled by Mr. Trump.
Both countries arrived last week Cost-sharing agreement To deploy American troops to South Korea, a presence that Mr. Trump also threatened to end.
After the meetings in Tokyo and Seoul, Mr. Austin will travel to India, which is at this location Lowest point in relationship With China in the decades following a deadly border incursion last summer. Mr. Blinken will arrive in Alaska on Thursday for a meeting with the Chinese envoys.
As he called for talks. Blinken wished luck, Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCall, the top Republican in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that “we can’t count him as a general adversary.”
“We are really fighting for democracy against authoritarianism in an ideological struggle and promoting freedom over oppression,” Mr. Mackall said. He said that the United States had for four decades held China’s ruling Communist Party in hopes of persuading its leaders to follow international norms in order to “be blind.”
“Unfortunately, it just didn’t work,” Mr. McCall said.
Lara Jake and John Ismay reported from Washington and Steven Lee Myers reported from Seoul.