US National Security Strategic Guidance: Worries Remain over ‘Reconciliation with China’

President Joe Biden has released interim guidelines for a “National Security Strategy.” One could say these are basic military and diplomatic guidelines for the administration that will eventually crystallize into a true national security strategy in the coming months.

The guidelines designate China as “the only competitor potentially capable of … a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken further stated that the rise of China constituted “the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century” in a recent diplomatic speech. I welcome the decision to show determined resistance to China.

On the other hand, given its allusions to cooperation with China, it’s difficult to say that the U.S. has eliminated its fear of a conciliatory approach. It is integral to the fight against China’s accelerating quest for hegemony that Japan, Australia and NATO realize their plans for joint action.

In late 2017, the Donald Trump administration released a National Security Strategy that classified China and Russia as “revisionist powers” and pursued “peace through strength.” Former Vice President Mike Pence stated in a speech that this would mean “confrontation from involvement,”* and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for a “new alliance of democracies” to oppose the “new tyranny” of China.

The Biden administration should build on this understanding and course of action regarding China. Yet the interim guidelines seem to contain the elements of the “engagement policy” that failed under the Barack Obama administration. The document states that policy should not preclude working with China when it is in the national interest, and expressly declares that it “will welcome the Chinese government’s cooperation” on the topics of climate change, global health security, arms control and nonproliferation.

China is expanding its influence by providing domestic COVID-19 vaccines in Europe and Asia. On the topic of disarmament, the first priority is to put pressure on China, which is continuing its deployment of intermediate-range missiles.

Furthermore, the document’s failure to mention denuclearization with regard to North Korea may be seen as tacit approval of the Kim Jong Un administration’s possession of nuclear weapons. With China’s National People’s Congress completing its “Sinicization” of Hong Kong through reform of their electoral system, its likely to also be seeking justification for its maritime control of the East China Sea.

The security strategy emphasizes the importance of military forces necessary for deterrence in the Indo-Pacific. Coordination with allies is essential here, especially the need to share the burden.

Japan cannot remain passive. Scrupulous preparation is necessary so that the nations of Japan, the U.S., Australia and India may cooperate as four pillars to support a free and open Indo-Pacific.

*Editor’s Note: This quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.

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