US Prez Joe Biden’s trip to Asia: New friends, old tensions, storms at home

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President Joe Biden hopes to use his visit to Asia to confirm his belief that long-standing friendships can afford to grow even friendlier and pay dividends. His six-day trip begins Friday in South Korea and ends in Japan at a time when world events are redefining the foundations of the world order.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted supply chains and exposed the fragilities of a trading system focused primarily on low prices for consumers and high profits for businesses. Then, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ushered in a return to Cold War-era intrigue.

The United States and other wealthy democracies, including Japan and South Korea, banded together to help Ukraine and punish Russia, but not all countries were ready to side with the alliance. China, India and others aim to remain cordial with Russia without breaching sanctions.

The uncertainty leaves Biden determined to show that America’s ultimate power rests in its ability to win friends and influence people rather than the raw capacity of its military and economy. A look at some of the key issues and themes on the table for Biden’s visit:

EASING TENSIONS WITH NEW LEADERS







Relations between Japan and South Korea have been at their worst in decades due to disputes over wartime history and trade. These are divisions that the two new leaders of the countries seem to want to bridge, with Biden as a possible interlocutor who could help bring them closer.

South Korea’s Yoon Suk Yeol took over the presidency a week ago hoping for better relations with Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who took office in October, spoke with Yoon by phone the day after his election victory in March, saying good relations are crucial for regional and international peace and stability.

According to Kishida, the rules-based order is threatened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Japan fears the war that began in February could encourage China to seize territory in the Pacific, a key reason why better relations with South Korea are desired.

Yet Kishida skipped Yoon’s inauguration on May 10 and sent his foreign minister instead. Since the United States has a relationship with both countries, a bridge that can improve relations is to focus on the common interests of the three nations.

NORTH KOREAN PRESSURE COOKER

Biden’s visit comes as allies face a growing threat from North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile program.

The country’s authoritarian leader, Kim Jong Un, is trying to force the United States to accept the idea that the North is a nuclear power and is seeking to negotiate security and economic concessions from a position of strength.

Kim has conducted 16 rounds of missile tests so far this year, including the country’s first flight of an intercontinental ballistic missile in nearly five years in March.

It is trying to exploit a favorable environment to advance its weapons program as the UN Security Council remains divided over Russia’s war on Ukraine.

The challenges posed by a declining economy and a growing outbreak of COVID-19 in an unvaccinated population of 26 million are unlikely to slow his pressure campaign.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said US intelligence shows there is a real possibility that North Korea will conduct another ballistic missile or nuclear test during or around the visit of Biden.

Nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled for more than three years over disagreements over how to ease crippling US-led sanctions in exchange for disarmament moves by the North.

THUNDERSTORMS AT HOME

Even halfway around the world, Biden can’t escape the turmoil rocking the United States

The stock market plummets on fears about the economy. Shortages of infant formula are frustrating families, even amid efforts to import and increase domestic supply.

The pain of Buffalo, New York, the mass shootings and the racist motives underlying the attack are still fresh. Add to that rising gas prices and the continuing challenge of inflation at a nearly 40-year high.

The president may want to draw public attention to his efforts abroad, but he’s likely to face some tough questions about what’s going on at home.

THE QUAD

It’s Tuesday, but what is it?

The Quad is a partnership comprised of the United States, Australia, India, and Japan with the stated goal of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The joint statement from their 2021 meeting did not mention China, but many of the positions taken by the Quad are interpreted as a brake on China’s ambitions to be the dominant power in Asia.

This time the drama could be more internal and deal with the complex nature of democracy itself. This is because Australia is holding elections on Saturday.

If the outgoing party wins, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to attend Tuesday’s meeting in Tokyo already. But if his party loses, Morrison would have to resign quickly so that opposition leader Anthony Albanese can be sworn in before the Tokyo meeting.

Then there is the possibility that neither party will win a majority or that the results will be uncertain. If that happens, Albanese might be able to attend as an observer.

THE ENIGMA OF CHINA

Biden’s visit is being closely watched by China. The United States and its allies rely on China as a trading partner, but the rivalry persists as shared economic interests have often revealed conflicting value systems.

US officials increasingly view their relationship with China as one of competition.

Shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin met at the Winter Olympics in Beijing and told the world that the two countries had a friendship. without limits. Since the invasion, China has been critical of sanctions imposed on Russia while appearing hesitant to break through bans imposed by the United States and its allies.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian alluded to China as a third party that should not be disadvantaged by US-Japan deals.

The development of bilateral relations between the United States and Japan should not target any third party or harm the interests of third parties, Zhao said at a press briefing Thursday.

A NEW ACRONYM: IPEF

Former US President Donald Trump set fire to years of trade talks by pulling the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2017. While Biden has cast himself as the anti-Trump, he has shown no enthusiasm for returning to the agreement as written.

This leaves the United States coming to Asia to promote an alternative trade pact: the Indo-Pacific economic framework. Or IPEF.

What exactly would this framework do? These include regional cooperation on trade, technology, supply chains, clean energy, labor standards, taxes and anti-corruption programs.

None of this is necessarily controversial. But one possible hurdle is that the administration is signaling that the framework won’t involve the usual financial sweeteners of lower rates and easier access to U.S. customers, a possible nod to a backlash from U.S. voters against trade deals. past.

Australia, India and Japan, the other three members of the Quad, are likely members of the framework. South Korea and some Southeast Asian countries are also considered candidates.

But the framework is still in its infancy. It was announced on Tuesday that the US Commerce Department would tap Sharon Yuan of The Asia Group, a business advisory firm, to be its chief deal negotiator.

MORE TOKENS, PLEASE

It’s the engine of the digital age: almost everything needs a computer chip. But the world simply lacks a reliable supply in the wake of the pandemic. US government officials expect shortages to ease towards the end of this year, but it may not be until 2023 that there will be enough semiconductors on the market to meet current demand. industry needs.

No one denies the need for greater cooperation, but there is open debate about how to increase production to withstand disease, war, extreme weather and other calamities.

Biden wants to see more US-made chips. South Korea and Taiwan want to increase the resilience of their own production to resolve this crisis, according to a briefing from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

And the Japanese prime minister is making chips the cornerstone of his new capitalism policy, seeking to manufacture chips for robotics technology, artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

(Only the title and image of this report may have been edited by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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