The high-profile statements of the White House administration about the reorientation of the foreign policy course from the Middle East to the Indo-Pacific region have now become a reality and are reflected in the fact that Washington has focused on the formation of military-political blocs among the countries of the region. However, the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan has raised great doubts about the reliability of US security guarantees for its allies. India is not sure of Washington’s support in the event of another escalation of the Indian-Chinese border conflict. Moreover, Beijing has become the largest market for Australia and the largest exporter of goods to the UK. It is also the main trading partner, both for Tokyo and Seoul.
Since 2016, relations between the United States and China have deteriorated sharply. A so-called ‘trade war’ has begun between the two leading world powers. From a completely working relationship, Washington and Beijing switched to a serious confrontation in the economic, political, and military spheres. The high-profile statements of the White House administration about the reorientation of the foreign policy course from the Middle East to the Indo-Pacific region have now become a reality and are reflected in the fact that Washington has focused on the formation of military-political blocs among the countries of the region. The main goal of these security alliances should be to counter Beijing’s growing role on the world stage. However, for the most part, the members of these associations adhere to neutrality and refrain from conducting open anti-Chinese rhetoric. This is especially noticeable in the context of the difficult situation in the region amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In early 2021, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited Tokyo and Seoul to strengthen tripartite relations and convince Asian colleagues of the need to form an anti-China coalition.
“It is extremely important that we solve the Chinese problem together with partners in the Indian-Pacific region,” Lloyd Austin said about his trip to Japan and Korea.
As part of this foreign policy course, Washington has already created a number of military-political associations in the region, such as QUAD and AUKUS, in which India, Japan, Australia, and the UK are involved. The United States is also very interested in including the Republic of Korea among the main military allies, but in Seoul, it is still neutral.
The reality is that at the moment, as the initiator of the anti-China agenda in the region, only the White House is really interested in weakening Beijing. At the same time, American allies represented by Japan, the Republic of Korea, and India would be better off maintaining friendly partnerships with China.
First, despite the significant economic and military-political support that the United States provides to its allies, the unexpected withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan has become a real stumbling block and is raising great doubts about the reliability of security guarantees for US allies around the world. This, in turn, directly affects India, which is not sure of Washington’s support in the event of another escalation of the Indian-Chinese border conflict.
Despite constant statements about mandatory American assistance in the event of a military conflict with China, countries like Japan and the Republic of Korea, which have territorial differences with Beijing, are also very cautious about such statements by the American side.
In addition, the fears of the countries of the region regarding the “North Korean threat” are relevant. Since relations between the United States and North Korea are likely to continue to deteriorate, perhaps in the future it is China that will have to play a major role in the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
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However, despite the military-political alliance with the United States, Japan and South Korea have many economic points of contact with China. Beijing is the main trading partner, both for Tokyo and Seoul. For South Korea, already in 2019, the export to China formed a quarter of the total exports of this country. For Japan, China is the second-largest export destination, responsible for 20% of the total volume. The economies of the three countries are complementary and also highly compatible in the production sector. As the economies of the three countries grow, this interaction will only intensify.
Moreover, China is one of the main economic partners for other American partners. So, Beijing has become the largest market for Australia and the largest exporter of goods to the UK, and therefore the deterioration in relations with Beijing will be a heavy blow to the economic condition of Canberra and London. The situation is aggravated against the backdrop of unstable economic realities amid the protracted pandemic of coronavirus infection, which hit the economies of all states of the world, including the US allies.
Question of Priorities
Moreover, Washington exploits the economic instability in the region and various differences between its allies and Beijing solely for its own purposes. At the same time, it is worth recognizing that the creation of more and more military-political alliances does not contribute to the formation of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. Washington’s Asian allies are between Scylla and Charybdis, trying to maintain friendly relations with Beijing, and at the same time not lose US support. Nevertheless, in the situation facing the world today, common efforts to confront the general epidemic problem and restore economies are important to improve the well-being of the population.
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