Biden visits Japan and South Korea with warning to China

WASHINGTON/SEUL/TOKYO (Reuters) – Joe Biden will visit Japan and South Korea on his first trip to Asia as U.S. president, bringing a clear message to China, advisers and analysts say: Don’t try what Russia did in Ukraine. anywhere in Asia. , and especially not in Taiwan.

FILE PHOTO: Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attends a virtual meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden at his official residence in Tokyo, Japan January 21, 2022 in this photo released by the Public Relations Office of the Cabinet of Japan through Kyodo. Japan Cabinet Public Relations Office via Kyodo/via REUTERS Mandatory Credit Kyodo/via REUTERS/File Photo

Biden leaves for the five-day trip on Thursday, after spending several months organizing allies to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special operation.”

Meets with new South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in Seoul and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo, leaders who share concerns about North Korea and China and are eager to build on their longstanding alliances with Washington.

“Essentially, this (trip) is about building a network of alliances in East Asia,” in part to counter any Chinese action against Taiwan, said Evan Medeiros, an Asia specialist in the Barack Obama administration.

The drastic sanctions that Biden led against Russia would not be so simple against Beijing. China is South Korea’s largest trading partner and the largest source of goods that Japan imports, surpassing no. 2 United States by a wide margin.

Complicating Biden’s message, his administration has not come up with a plan to counter Beijing if it takes steps to retake the autonomous island of Taiwan, even as US intelligence sees preparations underway.

Similarly, there is little public strategy to counter Beijing’s COVID-free lockdown policy that some economists say could spark a global recession.

Even with those shortcomings, support for Washington from Seoul and Tokyo is stronger than in recent history.

“The president is lucky with whom he has as counterparts,” said Michael Green, an Asia specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “I was doing the math on this, and it’s been at least 20 years since an American president could travel to Japan and Korea and count on the leaders of both countries being so frankly pro-alliance.”


Biden is expected to offer deeper collaboration to allies on a series of technology initiatives, highlight new public-private partnerships to ease supply chain constraints, and support efforts by South Korea and Japan to modernize their defense capabilities. and develop an offensive military capability.

He will not visit the demilitarized zone that borders North Korea, and the administration is not coming up with new ideas on how to handle the tense relationship, analysts say. North Korea has abandoned a freeze on intercontinental ballistic missile tests and may soon resume nuclear testing.

North Korea also recently revealed that it is battling an outbreak of COVID-19, but has ignored calls to return to diplomacy as it appears unprepared to accept outside help even from China.

In Japan, Biden will meet with the prime ministers of the three other members of the “Quad” group: Japan’s Kishida, India’s Narendra Modi and whoever wins what is expected to be a close election in Australia on Saturday.

While not a NATO-like military alliance for Europe, Washington sees the informal grouping as key to cementing pro-democracy values. Biden will highlight cooperation on COVID vaccines, humanitarian aid, infrastructure development, as well as climate, space and cybersecurity.

Both Kishida and Biden are expected to take a light touch with Modi over what Washington sees as India’s lukewarm response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In Japan, Biden will also launch the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a partnership that encourages cross-border dialogue and investment related to trade, supply chain resilience, infrastructure, decarbonization, and tax and anti-corruption measures.

But what Asian countries want most — greater access to hundreds of millions of American consumers, as agreed in the Trans-Pacific Partnership that Donald Trump abandoned in 2017 — will not be part of the deal.

Kishida is expected to pressure Biden to rejoin that deal, Japanese officials and analysts said.

Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin in Seoul and Elaine Lies in Tokyo; Edited by Heather Timmons and Lincoln Feast.

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