The U.S.-Japan joint statement issued after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga visited Washington and held a summit with U.S. President Biden reflects the tremendous changes in East Asian geopolitics. International media have unanimously pointed out that the statement is a rare public mention of Taiwan again 52 years after the joint statement between the two countries in 1969, and also mentioned a series of issues related to China. In addition, the statement also expressed concern in other parts of the China threat without naming names. The statement shows that the United States and Japan intend to strengthen alliance and cooperation, and the target is China. The antagonism between China and the United States, which is worried by all walks of life, is becoming increasingly clear and difficult to reverse with the release of the statement.
Yoshihide Suga was the first foreign leader he received after he entered the White House. This honor underscores the importance that Washington attaches to the alliance between the United States and Japan. Of course, this is also closely related to the US’s Indo-Pacific strategy and its response to China’s challenges. Unlike the predecessor Trump’s approach of fighting alone, Biden’s diplomatic strategy is to leverage the United States’ global alliance system to collectively contain China’s influence. Located in Asia, at the forefront of this strategy, the US-Japan alliance is undoubtedly Washington’s best tool. In recent years, China has been tough on the sovereignty dispute over the Diaoyu Islands, which Japan calls the Senkaku Islands, and has provided an entry point for Biden to win over Tokyo.
The joint statement not only emphasized that the United States will use means including nuclear weapons to safeguard Japan’s sovereignty and integrity, but also clearly pointed out that the United States’ military obligations cover the Senkaku Islands. The two sides also expressed the “importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait” on this basis. Although the strategic clarity of the United States’ commitment to “defend the Republic of China” (Taiwan) 52 years ago by the United States is not the same as that of the United States, Japan, which has always been cautious towards China, this time, together with the United States, expressed its hope for peace in the Taiwan Strait, which means that Tokyo has already stated its position A strategic judgment on the future development of East Asia’s geopolitics also shows that Japan has a more equal position in the US-Japan alliance. The joint statement mentioned that Japan will correspondingly improve its military capabilities to undertake the obligations of the covenant.
After mentioning the protection of the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands by the United States and the strengthening of Japan’s military capabilities, the statement immediately used a long paragraph to talk about China, and listed Beijing as sensitive subjects-Diaoyu Islands, South China Sea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and The human rights situation in Xinjiang. In addition to this public naming of China’s threats, the statement also does not name China in other places. The topics include compliance with environmental protection commitments, 5G communication technology security, protection of sensitive industrial chains and cutting-edge technology security. In the field of trade, the statement did not name and criticize China’s non-market and unfair trade practices, intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer, state subsidies, etc.; the statement also stated that it will adhere to the traceability of the coronavirus.
The strengthening of the alliance between the United States and Japan, on the one hand, sends a clear message to the Asian region, and on the other hand, it is also intended to serve as a cornerstone for the consolidation of the four-party security dialogue mechanism. The joint statement has repeatedly mentioned “universal values” and a rules-based international order, and it is clear that they are striving for the other two members of the security dialogue mechanism-India and Australia. The leaders of the four countries just held a video summit on March 12. Compared with the U.S.-Japan alliance, which is dominated by military hard power, the four-party dialogue mechanism will enhance soft power, such as providing COVID-19 vaccines for the Indo-Pacific region and providing assistance to counter the “Belt and Road” infrastructure construction to resolve China’s region. Influence.
It is foreseeable that as Japan’s position in the U.S.-Japan alliance has increased significantly, Tokyo’s diplomatic posture is bound to become more active. After taking over as Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga visited Vietnam and Indonesia, two major member states of ASEAN in October last year. According to Japanese media reports, he plans to visit the Philippines and India at the end of April, two regional countries that have sovereignty disputes with China. Given that Japan has long since started to shed its economic and trade dependence on China, the regional countries visited by Suga Yoshihide are likely to be key investment targets for Japanese companies to restructure their industrial chains.
Facing this crustal change in Asian geopolitics, regional countries will face new diplomatic pressures. South Korea, which is also a US military ally and highly dependent on the Chinese market, may feel the deepest. The White House has announced that Biden has invited Moon Jae-in to visit in May, making him the second foreign leader to visit after Yoshihide Suga. Washington’s concentration on wooing the two major Asian allies can be seen in the degree to which it attaches importance to China’s challenges and the intensity of its response. How Beijing adjusts and responds will determine the future strategic situation in Asia.