Biden has a long way to go to make his Asia policy a success

More than 16 months after taking office, President Joe Biden stepped into Air Force One and on Asian soil for the first time in his presidency. His four-day visit coincided with several diplomatic initiatives: bilateral summits with allies such as South Korea and Japan, the Quad Leaders Summit and the much-anticipated launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).

Mr. Biden’s visit had three main goals. His first objective was to confirm and strengthen America’s alliances in Asia through bilateral meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korea’s newly elected President Yoon Suk-yol. In his conversations with both leaders, Mr. Biden took pains to ratify some standard but fundamental American policies in Asia. America’s allies have committed themselves to tackling North Korea’s nuclear challenge, securing freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific, remodeling global supply chains and reducing the Chinese threat to Taiwan. Washington will be particularly pleased with the election of a conservative administration in Seoul that shares much of its worldview. While previously South Korean governments hid behind bureaucracies and avoided explicitly supporting the US vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” for fear of offending Beijing, Mr. Yoon’s administration offered a vehement support. Most significantly, Mr. Yoon reiterated his country’s interest in working with the Quad and even hinted at the possibility of improving Seoul’s poor relationship with Tokyo.

America’s allies have committed themselves to tackling North Korea’s nuclear challenge, securing freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific, remodeling global supply chains and reducing the Chinese threat to Taiwan.

Read also: With China back on USA radar, Quad is on track with renewed vigor

So far, so good. Mr Biden’s second objective, to counter Chinese influence, was met with some modest success. Seoul went on to expand its defense partnership with Washington by increasing joint development and manufacturing of defense goods, which would prove to be a shot for America’s military alliances in the region. Tokyo’s commitment to increasing defense spending would go a long way in easing Washington’s considerable military burden in the region. In addition, Washington has found that it is pushing an open door along with its other key priorities: reshaping the global supply chain to reduce dependence on China. Regional capitals have long recognized that Beijing’s immense ambitions in Asia stem directly from its dominance in the manufacture of key industrial products. Japan’s new economic security law and the Quad’s efforts on supply chain resilience are in line with Washington’s ambitions. Washington’s growing diplomatic investment in the Quad is also reassuring many of its regional partners that the US is in the region for the long haul.

Finally, Mr Biden made waves when he appeared to confirm US military involvement in the event of a Chinese attack on Taiwan. While US diplomats fell upon themselves in an effort to qualify his comments, Taiwan and Japan saw it as a “classical mistake”. With a pledge to protect Japan’s Senkaku Islands from Chinese aggression, Mr Biden’s visit to Asia will calm any troubled nerves among the region’s military and political leadership as the depth of US military commitment to Asia.

Read also: At the Quad Summit in Tokyo, India not one but two diplomatic victories

In the end, Mr. Biden’s Asian stay gives him the perfect opportunity to launch the IPEF. Touted as the US response to China’s economic dominance, IPEF 13 will serve as a forum for regional economies to formulate rules for the digital economy and respond to climate change and supply chain shocks, among other things. combined reactions. Washington’s hope was that the IPEF would provide a much-needed economic complement to America’s military-heavy strategy in Asia. The Biden administration has certainly failed to deliver on this. Even seven months after it was first announced, details about IPEF are vaguely scarce and what we know so far is not encouraging.

Washington’s hope was that the IPEF would provide a much-needed economic complement to America’s military-heavy strategy in Asia.

To begin with, Washington has made clear that it does not expect to offer trade concessions in the form of lower tariffs or increased market access. Meanwhile, it expects regional developing economies, many of which are still suffering from the economic shock of the pandemic, to make costly and politically difficult commitments to reduce emissions, implement anti-corruption measures and raise labor standards. For making. With no real incentive on offer, IPEF is headed for irrelevance if the curriculum is not fixed soon. It is a strategic imperative for the US to leverage its considerable influence in the region to break into China’s growing economic sphere of influence. Without it, geopolitical barriers in the region would not be managed effectively.

As the US president ended his brief stay and headed home, North Korea launched a parting shot in the form of an inter-continental ballistic missile as a reminder of its lethal capabilities. It was a harsh and grim reminder of its further work in Asia by the Biden administration.

this article was First published on ORF.

Professor Harsh V Pant is the Vice President of Studies and Foreign Policy at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. Shashank Mattoo is a Research Assistant in the Strategic Studies Program at ORF. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.

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