USA forges a stronger counterweight to China in Asia

On their first trip abroad, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin sharply criticized China’s behavior in the region. “If necessary, we will defend ourselves if China uses coercion and aggression to get its way,” said Blinken on Tuesday during a visit to Tokyo.

In a joint statement with their Japanese colleagues, the top American diplomat and the Pentagon boss underscored their determination to oppose “destabilizing behavior towards others in the region”. Where China’s behavior is inconsistent with the international order, it represents “political, economic, military and technological challenges” for the international community.

Blinken and Austin explicitly emphasized the importance of the alliance with the traditional ally Japan. The relationship is a cornerstone of peace and security. Washington is determined to stand by Japan in the dispute with China over islands in the East China Sea. The two ministers also reiterated that they rejected China’s sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.

As early as Monday, the US Department of Defense announced with a view to Taiwan that China’s accelerated modernization of its military represented a growing threat to the island. “As its capabilities increase, we are of course paying very close attention to the military balance in the Strait of Taiwan.” said a senior official.

China claims Taiwan as part of the People’s Republic. Taiwan broke away from the People’s Republic of China in 1949 at the end of a civil war. The 23 million inhabitants of the democratically ruled island fear an invasion by the People’s Republic.

Addressed to Pyongyang, the ministers called for “complete denuclearization”. North Korea’s arsenal represents a “threat to international peace and stability”. On Tuesday morning, the influential sister of North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un attacked the United States with sharp words. Blinken did not comment on the statements.

Japan and the US are “determined to deal with the challenge posed by North Korea,” said Blinken. This applies both to its nuclear program and to human rights violations.

Tokyo was the first leg of the US ministers’ journey to Asia. A visit to the South Korean capital Seoul is planned from Wednesday. With the trip, the new US administration is strengthening its relationships with important strategic and economic partners in the region, some of which have been heavily burdened in recent years under the administration of ex-President Donald Trump. Last Friday, US President Joe Biden emphasized at a virtual summit with the heads of government of Japan, Australia and India that the US is striving to work with all of its allies in the region “to achieve stability”.

Austin and Blinken traveled separately and met Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and her counterparts in Japan on the first leg of their trip. A visit to India is also planned. Blinken travels to Seoul on to Alaska. In the US state, he and the national security advisor Jake Sullivan are said to hold personal talks with their Chinese colleagues for the first time.

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