Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Tokyo on Monday as part of a four-day trip to reiterate the US’ commitment to its allies in the face of China’s expanding influence in the region.
The two Biden cabinet members, on their first trip overseas, will meet their counterparts in Tokyo and Seoul, South Korea, as part of a follow-up to the White House summit last week with the leaders of Japan, Australia and India, known as “The Quad.”
In an op-ed published Sunday in the Washington Post, Blinken and Austin laid out why continuing relationships with allies is of supreme importance.
“Our alliances are what our military calls ’force multipliers.’ We’re able to achieve far more with them than we could without them. No country on Earth has a network of alliances and partnerships like ours,” the two wrote.
“It would be a huge strategic error to neglect these relationships. And it’s a wise use of our time and resources to adapt and renew them, to ensure they’re as strong and effective as they can be,” they continued.
Blinken and Austin said bolstering the alliances with Japan and South Korea can help deter North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, ensure that sea lanes remain open for global commerce, battle the coronavirus pandemic and champion democracy in the region, serving to counter China’s objectives.
“Our combined power makes us stronger when we must push back against China’s aggression and threats. Together, we will hold China accountable when it abuses human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, systematically erodes autonomy in Hong Kong, undercuts democracy in Taiwan or asserts maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law. If we don’t act decisively and lead, Beijing will,” they wrote.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Monday he expects China to be a main topic of the conversation.
“Japan, together with the US, will resolutely respond to China’s unilateral attempt to change the status quo,” Motegi said. “But at the same time, China is the world’s No. 2 economy and it is important to firmly encourage that country to act responsibly based on international rules.”
But China said the concerns expressed by the US over its expanding influence in the region is a remnant of the “Cold War mentality.”
“For some time, individual countries have been eager to hype and incite the so-called China challenge and drive a wedge between regional countries, especially with China,” Chinese Foreign Minister Zhao LIjian said at a daily briefing. “But what they are doing … is not welcome and will never succeed.”
With Post wires