Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan risks undermining US efforts with Asian allies

The Biden administration has spent months developing an economic and diplomatic strategy in Asia to counter China, strengthening its alliances and reassuring friendly nations that the United States is in the region for the long haul.

The President dispatched senior military officials to forge new partnerships. paid attention to a small nation in the Pacific Ocean, the Solomon Islands. He launched a plan to poor Australia with nuclear submarines and initiated a regional economic pact. In May, he visited South Korea and Japan and invited both countries to a meeting for the first time. NATO meetingto confirm that Asia was not forgotten when the war raged in Ukraine.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan now threatens to undermine the White House’s push, leaving allies to wonder how much damage has been done to the president’s united front in Asia.

The fear is that the trip, which will also include stops this week in South Korea and Japan, is an unnecessary provocation that detracts from allied efforts to counter China’s military power and economic influence.

While US allies have so far largely kept quiet about the visit, there is a sense among America’s friends that they have been left out as China threatens the United States and Taiwan, the self-ruled island China claims as its own.

Contact with Miss. Pelosi’s visit raised concerns because, whether intentionally or not, it showed China’s power and downplayed the role of allies, said Sung-Hyun Lee, a South Korean researcher at Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies.

“The very fact that China’s possible response is causing heated debate in Washington is evidence of China’s rising status,” he said. Lee said. “Washington’s indecisiveness is already widespread in the region. This is a very bad signal diplomacy from Washington to its allies and partners in the region.”

Despite its short-term economic problems, Beijing has invested heavily financially and diplomatically in long-term plans to dominate the region.

China continues to tell its Asian neighbors that it is their natural partner in geographic location and cultural commonality. He tries to convince them that the United States is a distant and weakening power with a broken political system, which is doomed to lose its influence in Asia.

The Chinese navy is steadily increasing the number of patrols and military exercises in the South China Sea, sending more advanced ships. In recent months, its military aircraft have been harassing American allied warplanes. In May, Australia complained that a Chinese fighter jet dangerously intercepted one of its spy planes.

Given China’s economic and military power, the allies want consultations with Washington, which they don’t seem to get from Ms. K. Pelosi’s foray into Taiwan.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong suggested this on Wednesday when she called on all parties, not just China, to back off.

“All parties should think about how they can best contribute to reducing the current tensions, and we all want peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” she said. Wong said.

mr. Biden’s assurances about Asia have been a reassurance to nations facing China’s wrath in recent months.

A favorite expression of this anger has been trade boycotts for what China sees as bad behavior. Just hours after Mr. Pelosi’s arrival in Taiwan, China responded by imposing economic measures on the island.

Over the past two years, China has banned Australian exports of wine, lobster and coal after its government called for an international inquiry into the origins of Covid-19, which first appeared in China. The Chinese government still maintains economic sanctions on South Korea for allowing the US to deploy a missile defense system known as THAAD in 2017.

When new South Korean leader Yoon Suk-yeol recently said he might consider introducing a second installment of the system, China threatened more sanctions.

Economic Prohibitions and China’s Rising Authoritarianism hurt one’s position in South Korea, where a record high of 80 percent of the population now views the country negatively, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center.

“China ranks first among the most disliked countries in South Korea,” said retired General Shin Won Sik, who is now a member of the National Assembly. “About a decade ago, South Koreans felt the same way about China as they did about the United States.”

In response to the Chinese threat, South Korea and Japan, which have historically been on cold terms, agreed for the first time to join the United States to launch trilateral military exercises, he said.

Japan, one of the most vocal supporters of Washington’s China strategy, has stepped up coordination with the United States on Taiwan. Japan’s Defense Ministry has also deployed troops, anti-aircraft artillery and batteries of anti-aircraft missile systems to the country’s southern islands, some of which are close to Taiwan.

Public opinion in Japan is strongly opposed to China, and support for Taiwan has risen, giving Washington an opportunity to benefit from a closer relationship between Japan and Taiwan. But Japan also wants to avoid any unnecessary new friction between the United States and China.

The trip did not provide us with any strategic benefit,” said Ryo Sahashi, an assistant professor at the University of Tokyo. “We strongly support Taiwanese democracy and also greatly appreciate US efforts to protect Taiwan, including arms sales to Taiwan.”

“But this is completely different,” he added. “What we really want to see is a calmer environment that really allows us, Japan and the United States, to strengthen our security partnership with Taipei.”

Across the region, the United States has made strategic efforts to unite allies into a more cohesive coalition with military and diplomatic backbones.

A year ago, Australia signed a landmark defense pact known as AUKUS with the US and UK to acquire nuclear propulsion technology for planned submarines.

During a visit to Australia last month, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley reaffirmed Washington’s policy of fortifying Australia with new weapons. “China’s military activity is markedly and statistically more aggressive than in previous years,” he said. Millie said during his visit.

Together with the United States, Australia is spending money and diplomatic capital to help counter China’s growing influence in the Pacific Islands, a strategically important area in the event of a war with China.

This is a difficult position to navigate. Many of America’s allies in the region, including Japan, South Korea and Australia, are heavily dependent on China for their economies. About a third of Australia’s exports go to China.

Despite poor diplomatic relations, sales of iron ore, a major raw material for China’s industry, rose in Australia last year. Now exporters of wine and coal are trying to bring their products back to the Chinese market.

There was a flurry of high-level discussions to try to repair relations. New Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles with his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe in Singapore last month.

Mrs. Wong met with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Bali, ending a two-year diplomatic freeze. She went out of her way to say that China and Australia are not enemies.

As countries brace for the fallout from Mrs. Pelosi’s visit, heightened tensions between the two superpowers have ultimately cast doubt on the credibility of the American president.

“Biden’s influence says little about the fact that he can’t get the better of his party’s speaker,” said Alan Dupont, a former Australian government military intelligence analyst, noting that the president said the military didn’t think the visit was a good idea.

The previous speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, visited Taiwan 25 years ago. But Mr. Gingrich was a Republican and President Bill Clinton was a Democrat, and the political situation made the trip more worthwhile. mr. Gingrich visited China and met with its then-leader Jiang Zemin before traveling to Taiwan via Japan, a schedule unthinkable today.

At the time, the Chinese military was also much weaker and was just beginning to modernize its forces, which now include a much more powerful missile array and a vastly expanded navy.

Even in Australia, a democratic country with turbulent politics, people knew that Ms. Pelosi was a powerful figure, it is incomprehensible that Mr. Biden did not persuade her to cancel, DuPont said.

“An unnecessary crisis,” he said. “Own goal, the US is putting itself in that position.”

Ben Dooley made a report. Jin Yoo Young made a translation.