U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai organized a trip to three Asian states Monday. Her first stop was Japan. Washington says it’s hoping dialogue may increase the political cooperation between the allies of the USA in East Asia.
The perspective of the USA and its allies
The USA understands the necessity of coordination with Japan and South Korea in order to protect its hegemony in the region. Therefore, the current developments in East Asia have pushed foreign and security policy issues higher on Tokyo’s or Seoul’s agenda.
The recent spike in nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula provoked by Pyongyang, the continuing Sino-Japanese territorial dispute in the East China Sea and the strong growth of China’s military capabilities have all impacted the thinking of Japan’s elite. The USA recommends the Japanese establishment understood that they should forget all their historical problems with the Republic of Korea and concentrate their attention on the troubles with China. Nowadays, it is impossible individually to compete with China and the allies of the USA should accept this sad and non-pleasant reality for them. Putting economic issues to one side, Japan and South Korea should involve themselves in security matters. Economic relationships will not bring the necessary profit with the formulation conception of regional security.
The new administration of the USA supports indirectly the reformation of Japan’s postwar pacifist Peace Constitution because it does not reflect the current situation. The USA stimulates and encourages Japan and South Korea to develop and modify their military forces because they will participate in the potential region Chinese invasion. The USA has historically the classical approach to use the military forces of its allies and join in the final stage of the military campaign. This means that the USA has such a strategy that they should be always over any diplomatic, economic and military battles and be just the main moderator. The favourite part of the foreign policy of the USA consists of professional monitoring and then supporting the winning side.
However, the Japanese government welcomes the Biden administration’s activities to the Asia-Pacific and seeks to use it to strengthen the alliance with the US. At the same time, Tokyo realizes its own role and place for Washington in USA-China relations. Nowadays, the USA support for Japan is solid and real, but it cannot be taken for granted in all cases where Japan’s and China’s interests clash because we live in a very uncertain time. The same case may be applicable also for Seoul regardless of their long-term friendship with the USA because we experience the global transformation on our planet.
Moreover, in the East China Sea dispute, Washington preaching nonviolence with both sides has been trying to mediate between Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul. Biden’s peaceful turn to China can be easily explained by a number of geopolitical and economic reasons. The USA experienced serious economic troubles and for that reason, it tries to avoid and minimize the negative consequences inside of the American economy.
The USA also realizes the military power of China and its active physical presence in East Asia, and Chinese motivation to decide a more serious role in the Asia-Pacific region.
The position of China
China has a vibrant trading relationship with all its neighbours. Japan and South Korea clearly do not want the dominance of China in Asian policy but they act very gentle towards Beijing and are also afraid of the implementation of any provocations. Right-wing Japanese and Korean politicians even change their aggressive rhetoric towards China.
China, however, should not fear the actions of Japanese and Korean far-rightists. The pragmatic politics of Japan and South Korea value their relations with China enough not to allow itself to be swayed in the direction of far-rightist and radical politicians. This stance is unlikely to change as long as economy and peace will stay the top priority for all geopolitical actors.
The possible reaction of Russia
On the other side, Russia seeks also to diversify its economic and political relationships as widely as possible, in order to gain more options in the reign. After thoroughly defeating Japan in the military campaign in 1945, Moscow bears no historical grudge against Tokyo. Thus, Russians become comparatively friendlier toward the Japanese government and economic cooperation became the most powerful weapon to prevent aggression. The Russian navy safely controls the Kuril Islands and there is just the very minimal likelihood of it degenerating into a military confrontation.
Finally, China will continue to reemerge as an independent player in the Asia-Pacific region. They will guide their own national interests including internal development, particularly between the low–developed and landlocked western provinces and the developed east coastline. China will reach out to all relevant players but will seek a balance in all those relationships. China is a great civilization and it has the historical experience and enough common sense not to tilt too much in any particular direction, unless, of course, this is deemed necessary to restore geopolitical and strategic equilibrium.