Panel: United States must adapt to its allies’ stance towards China in Europe and Asia

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Washington must recognize and adapt to the different security and economic interests of Indo-Pacific and European nations vis-à-vis Beijing, a panel of regional academics said.

The United States “should never take any ally or partner for granted,” Andrew Oros, professor of political science at Washington College, said Thursday. “There are real coordination problems” with the Indo-Pacific allies of the United States, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and the Philippines.

For example, “South Korea now spends almost as much as Japan” on its own security, largely in response to the resumption of Pyongyang missile testing and the reopening of a nuclear production facility.

But Seoul’s increase in military spending raised eyebrows in Tokyo, according to Koji Kagotani, associate professor of economics at Osaka University. He said many in Japan see the build-up as part of a “Northeast Asian arms race” involving the two Koreas, Japan and China. Kagotani referred to the trade dispute between Seoul and Tokyo in 2019 that led to the cancellation of a joint intelligence-sharing agreement between them and Washington, complicating relations between the three allies.

The new “arms race,” he added to the Wilson Center online forum on Thursday, “makes alliances more difficult.”

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has announced that he will not stand for re-election as head of the Liberal Democratic Party later this month, ensuring a change in the country’s leadership and possible changes in his approaches to foreign policy towards China, South Korea and relations with the United States. States.

In addition, South Korea will elect a new president in March next year, who could strengthen the country’s cooperation with the North.

“If we cannot reach a consensus [among the three allies]It is difficult to take a hard line against China “without American leadership.

In Southeast Asia, Ja Ian Chong, associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore, “said that there is” no cookie-cutter solution “as the United States can apply in the area. Although members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations “claim not to [be] choose sides ”between Washington and Beijing, the needs are very different.

Poorer mainland countries, like Cambodia, are interested in China’s Belt and Highway infrastructure investments, while maritime countries, like Singapore, concerned about trade and tensions in the South China Sea , are interested in high-end investments with China, the United States and Europe.

“Their interests go in different directions,” he added, saying this division of interests exists even in the city-state of Singapore, a key regional partner of the United States whose port is used by ships from American coastal combat. In Singapore, Chong said, there is a divide between grassroots citizens with deep and historic ethnic ties to China and elites who are suspicious of Beijing’s regional ambitions and the future of the city-state.

Brian Carlson, head of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich’s Global Security Team, said that while Europe and NATO now recognize China as a competitor economically and militarily “there are divergent views ”on how to meet the challenge.

He said that China’s cyberattacks and disinformation campaign, as well as its offers to expand the Belt and Road infrastructure program in Central and Eastern Europe, were aimed at “weakening Europe and separate from the United States “.

But he added that the recognized threat to security, especially to trade, prompted Germany to send warships to the South China Sea to demonstrate its presence in Beijing. Berlin’s foreign and trade policy maintains a “balance” between the United States and China. Carlson added that 40% of the Volkswagen automaker’s exports go to China.

As the largest European economy, “Germany is the key” to any coordinated US-EU strategy regarding China, he said.

Like Japan and South Korea, Germany will soon have a new leadership, following elections later this month. Chancellor Angela Merkel is stepping down.

Academics in Taiwan see openings for Washington with other Indo-Pacific countries based on China’s most recent behavior.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s desire to “concentrate power in his hands,” the crushing of democratic dissent in Hong Kong, and his “wolf-warrior diplomacy” of threats and intimidation of neighbors have made “a lot, a lot cautious countries ”about dealing with Beijing in the recent past.

Even its “vaccine diplomacy” of sending its COVID-19 vaccines overseas has not “closed the trust gap,” especially among its closest neighbors, said Wen-Chin Wu, an associate researcher in political science at the Academia Sinica in Taiwan.

“When people can choose, they won’t choose China. They have more confidence in the United States ”and their vaccines, he said.

Using Vice President Kamala Harris’ recent visits to Vietnam and Singapore, Chong said he was optimistic about the administration’s commitment to a commitment that recognizes the region’s diverse interests.


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