US-China Policy: Biden brings Japan, Australia and India together to ignore China – Community News
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US-China Policy: Biden brings Japan, Australia and India together to ignore China

US President Joe Biden holds the first in-person meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, known as “the Quad,” an informal strategic forum of the United States, Australia, Japan and India — all democratic nations with a vested interest in countering the rise of China in Asia.
Biden will be joined in Washington by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Indian Leader Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to discuss “promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the White House said.
The meeting comes at a time of major change for US policy in Asia. As the Biden administration tries to strengthen its diplomatic partnerships in the region, Japan is taking an increasingly aggressive view of China’s military buildup. At the same time, Australia’s AUKUS defense pact with the US and the UK has cemented Washington’s commitment to Asia and made some key Southeast Asian partners uneasy.

At this critical point, what the Quad chooses next is more important than ever. Malcolm Davis, senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said that compared to its early roots under the George W. Bush administration, the Quad had evolved from a “low key political and economic dialogue” to a key player in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The Quad is not Asian NATO… but at the same time it is clearly moving towards a cooperative security approach,” Davis said.

US President Joe Biden and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attend a virtual meeting with leaders of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue countries at the White House on March 12.

countering China

Initially proposed in 2007, the Quad was put on hold for a decade until it was revived under former US President Donald Trump amid China’s rise as an economic and military superpower.

The diplomatic environment in Asia has changed significantly since that revival in 2017 — and the Quad has taken on greater significance.

In April 2020, relations between Australia and China deteriorated after Australian Morrison called for an independent investigation into the origins of Covid-19. Beijing retaliated by imposing punitive restrictions on Australian goods and the relationship has yet to recover.

Meanwhile, ties between Washington and Beijing, which deteriorated under Trump, have deteriorated further under Biden as the US strengthens its diplomatic partnerships in Asia to contain China.

The new US outreach was enthusiastically welcomed in Australia and earlier this month the two governments joined with the UK to announce AUKUS, an agreement under which the three countries would exchange military information and technology to form a closer defense partnership in Asia. .

Japan has also welcomed greater US involvement in the region. After efforts to adopt a warmer China policy in the early years of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s time as leader, Japan has become increasingly suspicious of Beijing in the past year.

In an unusually blunt interview with CNN in September, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said Japan will “resolutely defend” its territory in the East China Sea against Chinese actions.
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi during an interview with CNN in September.

Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia program at the United States’ German Marshall Fund, said India is now the most cautious member of the Quad and the extent to which the group is willing to promote defense cooperation and oppose China , depends on Delhi.

After a border dispute between India and China in mid-2020 that killed at least 20 Indian soldiers, experts said Delhi was reluctant to antagonize Beijing.

But in the Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs in early 2021, Amrita Jash, a research fellow at the Center for Land Warfare Studies in New Delhi, said India is still moving closer to the US militarily, including new and improved military exercises, weapons purchases and technology transfers.

An Indian army convoy, with reinforcements and supplies, travels in Ladakh, India, on June 13, towards Leh via Zoji La, a high mountain pass bordering China.

Some of the collaboration includes improved tracking and targeting technology, Jash said. “(There is) an imperative for India to closely monitor Chinese (military) movements along the Himalayan border and map China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean,” she added.

Glaser said there was another determinant of how far the Quad would want to go in opposition to Beijing.

“Another factor is China’s own behavior. The more China is willing to threaten other countries’ interests, threaten economic coercion… the more countries will be willing to push back,” she said.

United on Taiwan

Taiwan is likely to be one of the main points of discussion on Friday in Washington.

Over the past year, Beijing has ramped up military activity around the island, which has been governed separately from mainland China since the end of a civil war more than seven decades ago.
The Chinese Communist Party considers Taiwan, home to about 24 million people, to be an inseparable part of its territory, although it has never controlled it. President Xi has also previously warned that Beijing would not rule out using force to “reunite” Taiwan with mainland China.
Under Trump and now Biden, the US has strengthened its ties with Taiwan in recent years by agreeing to major arms sales and sending high-profile diplomats on visits to the island.
Australia has regularly joined the US in support of Taiwan, and in July Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso said in a speech to local media that Tokyo should join forces with Washington to defend the island against any invasion.
In August, a meeting of senior Quad officials released a statement for the first time emphasizing the “importance of peace and security in the Taiwan Strait.”

Glaser said she believes the August statement could have prevented a reference to Taiwan at this week’s Quad leaders’ meeting, which would be an unusually strong move by the Indian government.

“I think that’s going to be quite a wake-up call (for Beijing). They’ve heard it from Australia and Japan, but never from India,” she said.

According to Ben Scott, director of Australia’s Security and the Rules-based Order Project at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, a united Quad could help deter further Chinese government aggression against Taiwan.

However, he said nuance would be important in any coverage to avoid a spiral into a possible confrontation. “There is always a risk of going too far and falling into provocation,” he said.

US President Joe Biden speaks about national security with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, left, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Sept. 15.

AUKUS precipitation

The Quad meeting may come at a useful time for the US, Scott said — there’s never been a better time for Washington to show it’s part of a broad, close-knit community in Asia.

Scott said that while he believed the AUKUS agreement had been a positive step for US diplomacy in Asia, it had also presented a very ‘Anglosphere’ face to the region.

“It is itself described as a club of maritime democracies that automatically excludes most of Southeast Asia,” Scott said. “(And) the center of gravity for (US-China) competition is in Southeast Asia.”

Analysis: Australia's decades-long balancing act between the US and China is over.  It chose Washington
In a statement dated September 17, Indonesia said it was “deeply concerned” about an arms race in Asia and called on Australia to respect international law and its commitment to peace and stability. A day later, Malaysia said the AUKUS deal could provoke other powers to act “more aggressively in the region, especially in the South China Sea”.

By being part of a larger cooperation agreement with Japan and India, Scott said the US can give a more diverse face to Southeast Asia, among other parts of the continent — one that focuses not only on military acumen, but also on economic ones. and political cooperation.

Beijing has pointed to the AUKUS deal as an example of how Washington is only targeting military might in Asia, Scott said. By comparison, China this week formally applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), an 11-country free trade pact that the US has withdrawn under Trump.

Scott said it was important for the US to use the Quad now to focus on “positive and inclusive” agreements in Asia-Pacific, if it were to effectively counter Beijing.

“If you want to win hearts and minds in the region (Asia-Pacific), the first priority is Covid and the second is more broader economic stability and security,” he said.