US-Japan Summit Demonstrates More Dialogue with China Is Needed

While the world’s attention is turned toward Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Joe Biden’s first tour of Asia serves as a reminder that the top focus of America’s foreign policy is China. After his trip to South Korea, the president paid a visit to Japan. While this is a positive step, dialogue with China is also needed to deepen mutual understanding.

At the summit, both Biden and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stated their opposition to China’s and Russia’s attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo by force.

The U.S. is eager to fortify its relationships with liberal democracies that share its values as a way to counter the authoritarian states of China and Russia.

America’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, which was published in February, set out a proposal to integrate the security roles of allies and friendly nations to strengthen deterrence against the threat posed by China. It also promotes cooperation with countries outside the region, in a manner similar to AUKUS, the security pact between the U.S., U.K. and Australia.

Biden’s policy of increased involvement in Asia is welcome. However, every country has its own unique circumstances, so policies will need to be carefully coordinated with each country.

One novel aspect of the Indo-Pacific Strategy is its claim that America’s objective is not to change China, which represents an abandonment of policy on China to date. The U.S. had previously believed that stimulating growth through economic support would lead China to becoming more democratic. In reality, China has grown to the point of threatening U.S. hegemony and embraced a more hardline stance on foreign policy.

Even so, persisting with a confrontational attitude toward China is not advisable. Cooperation with China is necessary if we are to address global concerns such as climate change and infectious diseases.

At a joint press conference between Biden and Kishida, the president indicated that the U.S. would be willing to get involved militarily should China ever invade Taiwan. This statement marks a clear shift from America’s prior stance of “strategic ambiguity,” which purposefully maintained a lack of clarity about the U.S.’s potential response in such a situation.

As Biden is known for making careless remarks, more clarification is needed to understand his true intentions. If, however, there has been a change of policy, this should be explained carefully. In either case, his statement is a provocation of China.

The efforts by the U.S. to strengthen and improve deterrence may well lead to an arms race with China and further inflame tensions. Skillful leadership is required to prevent competition escalating to a crisis point. What the U.S. should be aiming for with China is peaceful coexistence.

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