Biden vows to militarily defend Taiwan in case of invasion by China

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TOKYO — President Biden opened the second chapter of his Asia tour on Monday with several moves — some choreographed, some apparently not — signaling a more confrontational approach to China’s economy and national security as his administration seeks to curb the influence of the most populous nation in the world.

At a Monday press conference, Biden said the United States would militarily defend Taiwan if attacked by China, despite the US policy of “strategic ambiguity.” Later, his administration announced the outline of a new trade agreement intended to strengthen US economic ties with other Indo-Pacific countries.

Later this week, Biden will participate in a meeting of the Quad, the partnership made up of the United States, India, Japan and Australia that aims in part to counter China’s power on a global scale.

Biden’s charm offensive aims to strengthen ties with South Korea and the Indo-Pacific

In Taiwan, a White House official walked back Biden’s remarks almost immediately, saying Biden had simply reaffirmed a commitment made through a 1979 law that calls on the United States to provide Taiwan with the military means. of self-defense. The United States maintains a policy of strategic ambiguity toward the island, which means it deliberately does not know what it would do when it comes to defending Taiwan.

But taken together, Monday’s remarks underscored the Biden administration’s aggressive strategy to dampen China’s growing influence – as the president drew parallels between a potential China-Taiwan conflict and the war sparked by the invasion. Russian from Ukraine.

“Russia has to pay a long-term price for this in terms of the sanctions that have been imposed,” Biden said during a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio at Akasaka Palace. “If in fact there is a rapprochement between … the Ukrainians and Russia, and these sanctions are not being maintained in many ways, then what signal does that send to China about the cost of trying – to the attempt – to take Taiwan by force? ”

Although the president said he did not expect such an invasion, Biden said China was “already flirting with danger” and said that despite the United States’ “one China” policy , “this does not mean that China has the … competence to enter and use force to take control of Taiwan.

“The idea that she can be taken by force, just taken by force is just not — it’s just not appropriate,” Biden said. “It would dislocate the whole region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.”

At Monday’s summit, Biden and Kishida reinforced their commitment to the alliance and their cooperation in responding to the Russian war. Kishida, elected prime minister in the fall, received high marks at home for his decisions – 71.2% of the public support his response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a poll published Sunday by Kyodo News, a Japanese media.

The two countries also agreed to work closely together to respond to China’s rise.

Part of that strategy includes launching the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, the outlines of a new trade deal designed to be an economic bulwark against China. The administration says it is improving the political and substantive shortcomings of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, negotiated under the Obama administration when Biden was vice president.

The dozen New Deal countries with the United States are Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The countries account for 40% of global gross domestic product, according to the administration.

“This is by any measure the largest international economic engagement the United States has ever had in this region,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said.

Administration officials also pointed to economic data showing the U.S. economy growing faster than China’s for the first time in four decades as evidence that a partnership with the U.S. would be a more enticing option. for other Indo-Pacific countries.

“Our view is that this is not a zero-sum game with China,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said. “It’s not about forcing countries to choose. But it’s about delivering a value proposition that we believe countries take extremely seriously.

But many officials across Asia, including in Japan, are wary of the US rollout of its new economic proposal. Japanese officials said they were relieved to see the United States reassert itself economically in the Indo-Pacific region, but remain frustrated by President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2017.

Although it was Trump who officially withdrew the United States from this agreement, it also lacked the support of both parties on Capitol Hill and would not have been ratified. It is unclear whether Congress should ratify this new trade framework.

Standing next to Biden during Monday’s press conference at the Akasaka Palace, Kishida repeatedly stressed Japan’s desire for the United States to join the TPP.

Meanwhile, many Asia-Pacific countries are already participating in a free trade agreement involving China, called Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. The framework released by the White House and the dozen other countries on Monday does not include specific commitments or requirements on what each nation must do to reap the benefits of the trade framework.

The administration has also faced questions about why Taiwan was excluded from the initial list of participating countries. Last week, a bipartisan majority of 52 senators wrote to Biden, urging him to ensure the self-governing island and U.S. trading partner were part of the new framework and said it was an economic and military imperative.

Excluding Taiwan would “significantly distort the regional and global economic architecture, run counter to the economic interests of the United States, and allow the Chinese government to claim that the international community does not in fact support meaningful engagement with Taiwan.” , says the letter, written by the two heads of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

To bring Southeast Asian countries, or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), on board, the United States must provide more details on its vision, said Fukunari Kimura , professor of economics at Keio University in Tokyo and chief economist of Economic Economics. Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia.

Market access — lowering the barrier to doing business with the United States — was an important incentive to convince Southeast Asian countries to join the TPP.

“With like-minded countries, the United States should clearly specify what the IPEF would cover,” Kimura said. “To make IPEF fly, it must ensure the involvement of ASEAN. Otherwise, it would be a minor extension of a security rally with a limited number of countries in the region. … IPEF must provide them with a good alternative incentive if market access cannot be included. The ASEAN economy continues to grow with international production networks.

Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), U.S. ambassador to Japan under the Trump administration, also pointed to the lack of provisions in the new trade framework to boost market access, even as allies in the region are “can’t wait to see more. United States economic leadership.

Julia Mio Inuma in Tokyo and Michael E. Miller in Sydney contributed to this report.

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