President Biden left on his first diplomatic mission to Asia since taking office on Thursday, hoping to show that the United States remained focused on countering China even as his administration stage-managed a war against Russia in Europe. This mission marks President Biden’s first trip to Asia since assuming the office of the presidency.
Finding a middle ground between the two competing priorities would require Mr. Biden to engage in complex geopolitical manoeuvring, which would be a problem for any president. On Thursday, the competing demands placed on his time and attention were on full display as he squeaked in a last-minute meeting at the White House with the leaders of Sweden and Finland to welcome their decisions to join NATO before heading to Joint Base Andrews to board Air Force One for the lengthy flight to South Korea. During this meeting, he welcomed their decisions to join NATO. After this meeting, he headed to Joint Base Andrews to board Air Force One for the long flight to South Korea. And only a few days earlier than that, Mr. Biden convened Southeast Asian countries at the White House in order to explain new investments in renewable energy and marine assets. This was done as part of a strategy to prevent China from dominating the Indo-Pacific region.
The conflict in Ukraine will undoubtedly follow President Biden throughout his stops in Seoul and Tokyo, and it will hang over his discussions with the heads of state of other countries, including South Korea, Japan, Australia, and others. At the same time, officials in the administration are concerned that North Korea could use the president’s trip to force itself back onto the global agenda by conducting an overt test of a nuclear weapon or an intercontinental ballistic missile, which would serve to remind everyone of dangers that extend beyond Ukraine.
This trip by Mr. Biden is also intended to reassure partners in the area who may have been unsettled as a result of President Donald J. Trump’s unconventional approach to Asia over the last several years. Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was a regional trade treaty negotiated by the United States and intended to compete with China’s increasing economic influence. He engaged in what he termed a “love affair” with Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, while at the same time calling into doubt the commitment of the United States to provide troops to South Korea and the mutual defence pact with Japan.
South Korea and Japan are becoming more anxious about North Korea’s capabilities and Mr. Trump’s warnings to draw back from the area, according to Bruce Klingner, a former C.I.A. expert on Asia who is now at the Heritage Foundation. “Biden should provide unequivocal assurances of U.S. dedication to the defence of our allies and affirm the U.S. extended deterrence guarantee of nuclear, conventional, and missile defence forces,” he said. “Biden should also affirm the U.S. extended deterrence guarantee of nuclear, conventional, and missile defence forces.”
A couple of studies that were conducted not too long ago came to the conclusion that despite the fact that the United States’ political influence in the region has once again increased since Mr. Trump’s departure from power, the United States’ economic influence has continued to decline as a result of the withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
To solve this issue, Mr. Biden proposes to introduce a new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which is a sliver of a full-scale trade treaty but would identify a variety of goals that are shared by all parties involved, such as digital commerce and supply chain security. Officials from the United States have expressed their optimism that a significant number of the nations that are still part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership would join it.
It will be Mr. Biden’s second time sitting down with his counterparts in a bloc that is intended to challenge Chinese predominance in the area. While in Tokyo, Mr. Biden will also meet with other leaders of the so-called Quad, which consists of the United States, Japan, Australia, and India.
It was still unknown who would show up to the conference on Tuesday, since elections in Australia were due to take place this next Saturday.
The approach that Mr. Biden takes with the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, who has been reluctant to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine out of concern of compromising security relations with Moscow, may prove to be the most complicated aspect of the situation. In addition, Mr. Biden’s pledge to fight autocracies all around the globe will be put to the test when it comes to Mr. Modi, who has discriminated against and demonised minority Muslim groups.