May 28, 2022
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To the results of the Asian tour of US President George Biden

New geopolitically charged initiative

US President Biden’s tour of South Korea and Japan has gone beyond bilateral US-South Korea and US-Japan relations. In fact, Biden held a review of the ranks of the Asian allies and partners of the United States.

The main outcomes of the visit were: a shift in the policy of “strategic ambiguity” regarding US military guarantees to the Taiwanese administration; announcement of security guarantees for South Korea against a hypothetical nuclear threat from North Korea; stepping up US cooperation with South Korea and Japan in the field of critical and new technologies, with a special focus on the semiconductor industry; promoting a new initiative to create the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).

During Biden’s visit, the work of the Quadripartite Security Dialogue was also specified. QUADRO (USA, Japan, Australia, India) in the economic field.

What does all this mean?

The President of the United States made a number of statements that can be regarded as a break with the previous policy of strategic uncertainty regarding Washington’s reaction to the military path of reuniting Taiwan with mainland China. Biden suggested that the United States could deploy American troops on the island in the event of a military escalation, and answered in the affirmative to the reporter’s clarifying question, “is he ready to [Байден] take a military part in the defense of Taiwan.” Previously, Washington has avoided certainty in these matters. True, subsequent clarifications by Biden and representatives of his administration showed that the policy of “strategic ambiguity” of the United States regarding security guarantees to Taiwan has not changed.

In particular, the White House spokesman offered a mitigating interpretation in response to a request CNBC: “The President… reaffirmed our one China policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait… He also reaffirmed our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Law to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself.”.

In general, one gets the impression that Biden made a reservation in expressing the position of the United States, as happened to him before. However, many do not believe this impression. Moreover, they do not believe him in China.

CNBC cites the opinion of McNeil, a political analyst Longview Globalwho believes that Biden’s words “were not a misstep or a misnomer”… “It was a very deliberate statement that should have sent a signal not only to Beijing but also to Taipei”.

Surabh Gupta, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Chinese American Studies, called Biden’s remarks an elaborate “two-stage game.” The expert believes that Biden seems to “determined to politically show strength in Taiwanese politics, and then let his team…rebalance on finer details” in this matter.

Beijing, represented by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, expressed “strong dissatisfaction and firm disagreement with the remarks of the American side. Wang Wenbin warned that “China will take decisive action to protect its sovereignty and security interests”focusing on the literal understanding of this warning – “we mean what we say”.

Sun Chenghao, a research fellow at the Center for International Security and Strategy at Tsinghua University, also believes that the US “strategic ambiguity” is shifting towards clarity. In his opinion, the United States is testing mainland China’s reaction step by step.

The PRC also drew attention to how the United States is imposing on South Korea services to deter nuclear threats from the DPRK, while they themselves are creating security threats to Pyongyang.

And the main purpose of Biden’s Asian tour was, apparently, to promote a new regional economic initiative – the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). This structure should, according to Washington’s calculations, become a key link in China’s economic isolation. In a letter sent to Biden ahead of his Asian tour, 52 US senators called for the use of IPEF for increase “America’s ability to effectively compete with China”.

List of participants IPEF almost similar to the composition of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which does not include China, the largest trading partner of most Asian countries.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi assesses this US initiative as an attempt to erase the name “Asia-Pacific Region” and destroy an effective framework for regional cooperation. According to Beijing, the idea IPEF is to serve the geopolitical interests of the United States in their opposition to China.

The Chinese pay attention to the fact that the United States selected partners for IPEF so that in the future they can contribute to the weakening of the competitiveness of the PRC. Therefore, individual ASEAN countries can reap short-term economic benefits from IPEF in terms of investment and trade.

Gu Xiaosong, Dean of the ASEAN Research Institute of Hainan Tropical Ocean University, gives the example of Vietnam as a large market country that may receive some “political bonuses” as part of expanding its textile and digital exports to the US. Malaysia, which has developed competencies and an appropriate industrial base for the production of semiconductor chips, can be “used by the Americans to develop appropriate supply chains to offset China’s supply chains”. However, the main goal of this geopolitically charged initiative remains the isolation of China.

Chinese experts also pay attention to the fact that so far IPEF does not have specific goals, objectives and organizational and legal instruments. However, in the next stage, the United States will distribute its industrial chains among various participants. IPEF so that this initiative will acquire a different degree of attractiveness for different participants.

During Biden’s Asian tour, some certainty appeared in the tasks of QUAD. In a joint statement by the leaders of the Quartet, it is indicated that QUAD will seek to increase investment in the economic infrastructure of the Indo-Pacific region to $50 billion over the next five years. The Quartet countries are also initiating a joint project on the protection of maritime borders, which will help “observe maritime activity in the three regions and support the freedom and openness of the Indo-Pacific”.

The question in Beijing is: if the US really wants to play a constructive role in Asia, why not do so through mature cooperation mechanisms such as APEC? They ask and understand: Biden’s trip to Japan and South Korea involves the creation of an American-led “small circle” of countries for “the disintegration of the existing development-oriented mechanisms of Asia-Pacific cooperation”.

Photo: REUTERS/Pool New

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