President Biden will embark on his first trip as chief executive to Asia this week, an opportunity to focus more on the challenge posed by China since his administration has been consumed for months by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Biden entered office expecting to focus on China as his foremost foreign policy challenge. In speech after speech, Biden has identified China as the chief economic competitor of the U.S. and built policy and partnerships around countering Beijing’s influence in the Asia-Pacific.
But that focus has been challenged by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which experts say virtually guarantees the U.S. will need to devote more resources in the short and medium-term to bolster European security in addition to strengthening its Asian allies while confronting China.
“I don’t see that shift as temporary, and that’s because Russia has demonstrated aggressive intent that will require vigilance in Eastern Europe and will require more American troops on NATO’s eastern flank, more ships, more aircraft, more capability,” said Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who served at the National Security Council under former President Obama.
But the White House has made clear that it has the capacity to devote resources and attention to both the Indo-Pacific and Europe, and officials see Biden entering the next several days of meetings on strong footing, having united allies behind a common approach to addressing Russian aggression.
“For us, there is a certain level of integration and symbiosis in the strategy we’re pursuing in Europe and the strategy we’re pursuing in the Indo-Pacific,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters at a Wednesday briefing. “President Biden’s unique capacity to actually stitch those together is, I think, going to be a hallmark of his foreign policy presidency.”
Biden’s first trip to Asia starts on Friday in South Korea, where he will meet the country’s newly elected president, Yoon Suk-yeol. Then he is on to Japan, where he will meet face-to-face with leaders of the other Quad countries, Japan, India, and Australia.
It is the second in-person leader meeting for the Quad, following a gathering in Washington in September. A virtual summit was held in March.
Russia is likely on the agenda. Intelligence officials have said China is watching closely and calculating how the global response factors into its goal of conquering Taiwan, the democratically governed island that Beijing claims as its own.
SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES