Ahead of Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan this week, there were concerns from the White House in Tokyo that the US House Speaker’s trip would trigger a crisis at a time when relations with China were already at a standstill. dangerous state
Beijing’s aggressive response has crystallized the high stakes for US allies and partners in the region. Regardless of the fears many had about Pelosi’s trip, the spectacular missile launches and live-fire drills have created a negative outcome for Beijing, galvanizing an increasingly united chorus of critics.
Before the Chinese military began exercises on an unprecedented scale this week, the G7 had warned Beijing “not to unilaterally change the status quo by force”. Speaking alongside Pelosi in Tokyo on Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the drills were a “serious problem” after five missiles, at least one of which flew over Taipei, landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
“This is another example of Xi Jinping basically helping to create the security environment around China that he says he doesn’t want,” said Chris Johnstone, a former senior US National Security Council official now at the group of CSIS reflection.
Eric Sayers, a security expert at the American Enterprise Institute, said the G7 statement was a testament to the “hard diplomatic work” the Biden administration has done to create a more unified position with allies on Taiwan. “Beijing would like to sow division and scare countries from commenting on Taiwan. That clearly did not happen here.”
Johnstone said the Japanese position illustrated how China had miscalculated. Tokyo was worried about the visit, in part because it was trying to restart engagement with Beijing. While Biden has spoken to his Chinese counterpart five times, Kishida has only had one conversation with Xi: a congratulatory call when he became prime minister.
Johnstone said China’s response to Pelosi’s visit would “reinforce the perception that has been growing in Japan that its security is tied to that of Taiwan.”
Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan this week drew a furious response from Beijing but helped unite America’s allies in Asia in opposition © Chiang Ying-ying/AP
Australia also took a low-key stance before the visit, but spoke out against China afterwards. “These exercises are disproportionate and destabilizing,” Foreign Minister Penny Wong said after previously urging all sides to de-escalate.
Charles Edel, an expert on Australia at CSIS, said the tensions came at a critical time in Australia, where there is a debate over what role the US ally would play in the event of a war with China over Taiwan.
According to a Lowy Institute poll75 per cent of Australians believe it is somewhat or very likely that China will become a military threat to the country in the next 20 years, an increase of 30 points from 2018.
“Australia will be more inclined to align its security policies with Taiwan more closely with the US and Japan,” Edel said.
The only American ally in Asia that stood out in not directly criticizing China was South Korea. President Yoon Suk-yeol was also the only leader who did not meet with Pelosi during her five-nation tour of Asia.
Mike Green, head of the Center for United States Studies at the University of Sydney, said Yoon’s decision not to meet with Pelosi and the position of Southeast Asian nations showed there was some ” anxiety” in the region, but added that there was more support. for Pelosi’s trip to Japan than some had suggested.
However, Green said Biden had complicated the situation for allies and partners by saying the Pentagon didn’t think the trip was a good idea, after it was revealed by the Financial Times.
“It exposed the kind of hesitancy and division that only encourages Beijing to try to further divide the US government,” Green said.
Michèle Flournoy, a former Pentagon official and managing director of WestExec Advisors, said that while some smaller Asian countries were worried about being caught in the middle, European nations such as Britain and France would “strengthen their resolve”.
Underscoring alarm among the region’s smaller countries, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Foreign Ministers this week expressed concern about “international and regional volatility” in a rare public statement.
“We all have skin in this game and . . . I want the United States and China to get along,” Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on the sidelines of an ASEAN meeting . “This is a dangerous and dangerous time for the whole world.” ‘
Underscoring the danger, Jing Quan, China’s third-ranking diplomat in Washington, warned this week that “Taiwan is one of the few issues that can bring China and the United States into conflict or even war.”
Most experts said Beijing dramatically altered the “status quo” on Taiwan this week. But others point out that Washington, Beijing and Taipei have taken actions in recent years that have changed the geopolitical landscape. China has been flying an increasing number of warplanes around Taiwan, while Taipei has pushed the US administration and Congress to boost its international standing.
Although the White House emphasizes that it has not changed its “one China” policy, which recognizes Beijing as the sole government of China, but only recognizes Beijing’s position that Taiwan is part of China, it has also taken steps, such as easing restrictions. about the officials meeting with their Taiwanese counterparts, which has raised alarms in Beijing.
Biden has also said on three occasions that the US would intervene militarily to defend Taiwan from an attack by China.
“China, the United States and Taiwan have been pushing the envelope of the status quo, but then they pretend that the situation remains the status quo,” said one observer.
One reason some countries are increasingly nervous is that there is no sign that anyone involved is willing to reverse course anytime soon.
Jack Bianchi, an expert on the People’s Liberation Army of China at the CSBA think tank, said China’s military response was partly due to Pelosi’s visit, but also reflects concerns about the politics of the only china
“They want to draw a line in the sand so they don’t see a continuation of a trend that is strategically unfavorable for them,” Bianchi said.
Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund, said US allies were unlikely to retreat in response to China’s aggression, but would seek more guidance from Washington when considering its policy.
“They’re going to want to hear from the US what our strategy is to prevent this from getting out of hand,” Glaser said.
Additional reporting by Nic Fildes in Sydney and Christian Davies in Seoul
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