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Nov 13, 2022
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U.S. expands position of strength policy in Asia

To the talks of the President of the United States with the Prime Minister of Japan and the President of South Korea

Joseph Biden held talks in Phnom Penh with Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida and President of the Republic of Korea Yun Seok-yeol. The main topic of the talks was the coordination of the efforts of the three countries to counter the program to strengthen the defense capability of the DPRK.

Biden said the US, South Korea, and Japan have never been as close as they are now on the “DPRK issue.” We are talking about a series of launches of North Korean ballistic missiles into the neutral waters of the Japan and Yellow Seas. Tokyo was particularly concerned about the October 4 rocket flight over Japanese territory. At the same time, the places where the missiles fell were areas outside not only Japanese territorial waters, but also the 200-mile economic zone.

Calling North Korean missile tests “provocative”, the heads of the three countries do not mention that the launches were Pyongyang’s response to truly provocative US-South Korean air maneuvers near the borders of the DPRK.

The US administration has long sought to establish cooperation between the armed forces of Japan and South Korea with the goal of creating a military alliance sealed by the treaty. Until recently, this was prevented by Seoul, which has serious claims to Tokyo, including unsettled problems of the colonial past.

The newly elected President of the Republic of Korea, Yoon Seok-yeol, is believed to be more inclined than his predecessor to normalize relations with Japan on the basis of a common enmity towards North Korea. The South Korean president calls the trilateral cooperation between Seoul, Tokyo and Washington “a bastion of peace and stability” in the region. He is supported by Kishida, who states that “Japan wants to further strengthen relations with the US and South Korea.”

For his part, the head of the White House says that Seoul and Tokyo are “critical allies.” Biden would like to see the unity of the Japanese and South Koreans in the confrontation with the PRC. In the language of the US President, this is called “strengthening supply chains and maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.” Traditional warnings about an imminent Chinese attack on Taiwan are used to whip up anti-Chinese sentiment.

According to the Japanese news agency Kyodo Tsushin, in terms of countering China, Washington, Tokyo and Seoul will announce “promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific.” This euphemism denotes the desire of the United States and its allies to prevent the growth of China’s influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Although Tokyo and Seoul are in relation to Ukraine, as they say, on the other side of the earth, the United States is seeking their more active participation in supporting the Kyiv regime while maintaining the sanctions policy against Russia. At a meeting in Phnom Penh, Biden discussed with Fumio Kishida and Yoon Seok Yeol the issue of expanding “coordinated support” to Ukraine.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan did not rule out that a joint statement could be issued following the meeting. In our opinion, the doubt that such a document will appear is connected with the position of Seoul. Sullivan acknowledges that there are a number of problems in Japan-South Korea relations.

During the tripartite meeting, Kishida intended to re-raise the issue of North Korean kidnappings of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s, officials said. However, five of the abductees were returned to Japan, the rest, according to Pyongyang, died. The North Korean authorities consider the problem settled.

The planned meeting between Biden and Xi Jinping in Bali also attracted the attention of the Japanese media. There, the US president “will certainly raise the issue of North Korea” as Pyongyang conducts ballistic missile tests at an unprecedented pace, Sullivan said. Apparently, the American side will continue to exaggerate the theme of Pyongyang’s allegedly planned seventh nuclear test. The previous test was carried out in September 2017, but since then the DPRK authorities have refrained from underground nuclear explosions.

According to Kyodo Tsushin, the Americans intend to intimidate the Chinese by saying that if they do not put pressure on the DPRK, the United States will increase its military grouping in the region. Biden is about to tell Xi at a meeting in Indonesia that North Korea poses a “threat” not only to the United States and its allies in Asia, but to “peace and stability throughout the region,” Sullivan said. “If North Korea continues on this path, it will mean a further strengthening of the American military presence in the region,” added the US national security adviser. Therefore, China should be “interested in playing a constructive role in containing North Korea’s worst tendencies.”

Thus, the US administration is using its president’s East Asian tour to expand the course of policy from a position of strength. We’ll see if China tolerates it. He usually doesn’t like that.

A photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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