Forty-five days have passed and halfway through the fateful hundred that, in tradition, give the signal of the direction of the presidential four-year period, Joe Biden has signed the super provision of 1900 billion to support the revival of the economy and in support of workers placed in crisis from the pandemic; has begun, in response to the "occupation" of the Republican party by former President Trump, a decisive action to widen the electoral audience and to ease the anti-migration restrictions of his predecessor. Foreign policy does not seem "revolutionized" even if the return to the multilateral system, starting with the Climate Conference and a different emphasis on the defense of human rights and political freedoms and the accentuated respect for religious convictions have certainly brought relief to the gloomy pessimism induced by Trumpian "imperialist" extremism.
China, Russia and the Middle East remain at the center of Washington's attention, while, albeit with better language, relations with Europe and in NATO are the subject of an impressive work of diplomacy.
In today's article, I will focus mainly on current US diplomatic and military activities in Asia and particularly towards China, Taiwan, South and North Korea, Japan and Afghanistan.
CYBER SECURITY A PRIMARY OBJECTIVE AGAINST CHINA AND RUSSIA
Washington is certainly not unaware that modern conflicts are also fought by responding to large-scale cyber-attacks against American government agencies and companies, which were discovered at the end of last year. The Biden administration has identified another potential US adversary after Russia: China. And the answers that Washington will provide on this double front, the New York Times reported on March 8, will better define the strategy that the new US administration intends to adopt in this cyber conflict which, according to the authorities, sees Moscow and Beijing engaged in the attempt. to regularly exploit US government and corporate vulnerabilities to spy on, steal information and potentially damage critical components of the nation's infrastructure. Biden's first major initiative is expected in the next three weeks, according to sources cited by the newspaper, with a series of clandestine actions against Russian networks, which will be evident to President Vladimir Putin and his military and intelligence services, but not to the rest. of the world. These actions will be combined with some sort of economic sanctions and an executive order from Biden to accelerate the strengthening of federal government networks after the Russian hack, which went unnoticed for months until it was discovered by a private cybersecurity company. The matter has taken on further urgency in the White House, Pentagon and intelligence agencies in the past few days after public exposure of a major breach in Microsoft email systems used by small businesses, local governments and, according to some sources , including by major military contractors.
Microsoft identified the intruders as a state-sponsored Chinese group and was quick to release a patch to allow users of its software to eliminate the system's vulnerability. But this has triggered a "competition" between those responsible for patching systems (that portion of software that update or improve programs by eliminating bugs and increasing security) but, according to Microsoft, despite the improvements made, a series of new attacks have been made up to this week by many other Chinese hacker groups.
American officials are trying to understand what the real extent of the Chinese attack was and have gained awareness that it was more serious and more ramified than initially thought. According to initial estimates, around 30.000 systems would have been involved, mostly those operated by companies or government agencies that use Microsoft software and manage their email systems internally. The United States government has not made public any formal indications of the perpetrators of the hack, but at the White House and at Microsoft's facility in Redmond, Washington, the fear is that spying and theft of information may have been the prelude to much more destructive actions, such as modifying data or deleting it.
The White House stressed the gravity of the situation in a statement issued by the National Security Council. "The White House has undertaken a comprehensive government response to assess and address the impact" of the intrusion into Microsoft, it is written, specifying that this response is led by Anne Neuberger, a former senior National Security Agency official and Deputy National Security Advisor for Information Technology. “This is an active threat that is still developing, and we urge network operators to take it very seriously,” the Council warned. As for retaliatory initiatives, Biden's National Security Advisor Jiack Sullivan explained that a mix of public sanctions and private action is the most likely combination. "In fact, I believe that a series of measures that are clear to the Russians, but not visible to the rest of the world, are actually the most effective in terms of clarifying what the United States believes is within or out of bounds, and what we are ready to do in response to the attacks, ”he added.
In this context, the US administration also complies with the provisions of the executive order signed by Biden on the day of his inauguration in the White House which, among other things, maintains in force a secret document signed by former President Donald Trump in 'August 2018, and gives the US Cyber Command greater authority than it did during the Obama administration to conduct daily actions in cyberspace, often without explicit presidential authorization. According to the new order, in particular, the Cyber Command will be able to arrange operations of significant size and scope, allowing the National Security Council to modulate times and operations. The upcoming operation against Russia and any potential response to China are likely to fall into this category.
CHINA CHALLENGES THE UNITED STATES ON MILITARY AND COMMERCIAL GROUND BUT, AT THE SAME TIME, IT IS ASKING FOR DIALOGUE AND CONCERTATION
American politics will not change in Asia: China remains the greatest danger to the world leadership of the USA, which - after being exposed by the arrogance of the Trump administration which has isolated it showing the unpleasant face of power, not affected but lonely and grumpy to the point of questioning some important "myths" that accompanied the sympathy and conviction of alliances cemented by two world wars and the ideological clash of the twentieth century - today he tries to recover relationships that are not easy to rebuild in their entirety, also affected by the Machiavellianism of foreign policy led by Obama and Hillary Clinton.
For Beijing the principle of "One China is universally recognized" and is the "red line" that must not be crossed in relations between Beijing and Washington on the delicate issue of Taiwan; an issue that directly involves Washington in the "active" testimony of its relations inspired by loyalty towards allies.
The Chinese government is well aware of the symbolic value of Taiwan and Foreign Minister Wang Yi has issued a harsh and direct warning to the US regarding its growing relations with Taipei, noting that the island "is an inalienable part of Chinese territory. "And the two sides of the Taiwan Strait" must and will certainly be reunified ". This, Wang said in the usual press conference during the annual parliamentary work, “is the trend of history and the collective will of the entire Chinese nation. It will not and cannot be changed ”. The minister, however, reiterated his readiness to have an "open dialogue" with Washington by setting various stakes. “Being two countries with different social systems, China and the US naturally have differences and disagreements. What matters most is to manage them effectively through frank communication to prevent strategic miscalculations and to avoid conflicts and confrontations ". Wang defined the basic requirements for the "right path of healthy and constant growth" of relations: after the clashes with the Trump administration, the hope is that Joe Biden's will change pace. First of all, with the "non-interference in internal affairs" of other countries, an equal dialogue and mutual respect. Beijing "will never accept unfounded stigmatization and will not tolerate aggression against its interests in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang". The United States must "recognize the fact that, for quite some time, they have intentionally interfered in the internal affairs of other countries in the name of democracy and human rights", Wang again attacked. The Chinese people are "in the best position to tell if China is doing a good job. The Chinese people can better decide what is the right thing to do ”. The list of cooperation with the US “is right in front of us and includes the fight against Covid-19, economic recovery and climate change. We hope that the US will move in the same direction, removing the unreasonable restrictions as soon as possible, without creating new obstacles ”. On the accusations of genocide against the Muslim Uyghur minority in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, Wang called them "ridiculously absurd" and "a complete lie". While on the further tightening to the detriment of Hong Kong, the improvement of the electoral system of the city (sic!) Aims "to strengthen the" one country, two systems "model and to maintain stability". In other words, it is not possible to be “a part of China and not be patriotic towards the motherland”. For this reason, the consolidation "of the principle of" patriots who administer Hong Kong "is constitutional, legitimate, correct and reasonable". China and the EU, on the other hand, are not systemic rivals and Beijing supports European integration: the two sides "can achieve great results". A clever but not very cunning statement, because it makes it clear not only to the Americans, but also to the Europeans that the breaking of the agreements on Hong Kong are clearly an expression of the authoritarianism that accompanies the economic, political and military expansionism of the People's Republic of China; Chinese economic data compared to Western ones testify to the difference between the current crisis and Chinese good health. The trade surplus of January-February 2021 stood at 103,25 billion dollars, rebounding from the 7,09 billion deficit of the first two months of 2020, hit by the Covid-19 crisis, beating analysts' consensus of 60 billion. Exports rose by 60,6% with electronics linked to smart working (+ 54,1%) and textile-medical products (+ 50,2%) in contrast to the pandemic of the new coronavirus, such as masks.
The Chinese know very well what is at stake and intend to accelerate the realization of a plan once considered an impossible dream: to be truly, not only to be considered, a global power, necessarily a competitor of the United States.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned the Biden administration at his March 7 press conference that it considers it necessary to cancel former President Donald Trump's "dangerous practice" of showing support for Taiwan. island democracy that Beijing claims as its territory. The Chinese claim on Taiwan is an "insurmountable red line," Wang Yi said. The United States has no official relations with the democratically elected government of Taiwan, but extensive informal ties. Trump, who left office in January, annoyed Beijing by sending cabinet officials to visit as a sign of support. "The Chinese government has no room for compromises or concessions on the Taiwan issue", is the minister's message. "We urge the new US administration to fully understand the high sensitivity of the Taiwan issue" and "completely change the previous administration's dangerous practices of" crossing the line "and" playing with fire ".
Wang gave no indication on how Beijing might react if US policy does not change, but the ruling Communist Party has threatened to invade Taiwan if it declares formal independence or delays union talks with the "motherland". . Biden says he wants a more civilized relationship with Beijing, but has shown no signs of softening Trump's measures on trade, technology and human rights. Polls show that American public attitudes are becoming more negative towards China, which is seen as an economic and strategic competitor.
Thus the Chinese government multiplies the messages: "The United States would do well to realize as soon as possible (the need for a change of pace, ed), otherwise the world will continue to suffer from instability", added the minister. Differences, Wang said, "must be handled carefully" and the two sides should "aim for healthy competition, not zero-sum exchanges of accusations." Words that come after the new US president Joe Biden stressed that "the growing rivalry with China" is the most serious threat that his administration is called to face. This is the same approach followed by his predecessor, Donald Trump, under whose presidency US-China relations have reached an all-time low.
IN RESPONSE TO CHINA BIDEN HAS ACTIVATED A NEW INTEREST AND COMMITMENT TO THE TWO MAJOR ALLIES, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA, AND A CHANGE OF PERSPECTIVE TOWARDS NORTH KOREA
US President Joe Biden plans to host Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga at the White House as early as April. This was reported by the information site "Axios", on March 7, 2021, specifying that Suga will be the first foreign leader to meet Biden in person: since his inauguration in the White House, last January 20, Biden has in fact confronted bosses of state and government only via video conference, due to the global pandemic crisis. The meeting scheduled for next April - if the forthcoming fourth global wave of coronavirus does not force diplomacy to postpone the meeting until late spring - will fuel the emphasis on the alliance between the United States and Japan, crucial for Washington in the context of the decided reorientation of China's strategic containment. Meanwhile, preparations are underway for the first official visit to Tokyo by US secretaries of state and defense, Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin, scheduled for mid-March. The two secretaries will be the first officials of the administration of US President Joe Biden to visit Japan, where the first ministerial in the "2 + 2" format will be held since the inauguration of the new president in the White House, last January 20. Blinken and Austin also plan separate talks with their Japanese counterparts, Toshimitsu Motegi and Nobuo Kishi.
Indiscretions reported by the US press confirmed that diplomacy and defense staffs hold preparatory talks via videoconference, discussing issues of common interest related to the security environment in the Indo-Pacific and defense cooperation. In addition, according to advances provided by the Japanese press, the ministerial scheduled for this month will probably focus on the growing military power of China (whose military fleet has now surpassed that of the United States in number of ships and firepower); on the need to strengthen the alliance between the United States and Japan for deterrence in the region. Other topics of joint analysis are the Chinese naval raids off the disputed Senkaku atoll; the militarization of the South China Sea by Beijing; the state of human rights in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang region of China.
The think tank CSIS, Center for Strategic and International Studies, in collaboration with the Japanese Institute of International Studies, hosted the 3th edition of the Us-Japan Security Seminar on March 2021, 27. The content of the works was made public by a note from the US State Department; this is not customary and served to reinforce the statements of Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Sung Kim. The official recalled that last year the United States and Japan celebrated the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Mutual Defense and Cooperation Treaty: "Over the span of six decades, the alliance between Japan and the United States has been the cornerstone of peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and in the world, ”said the secretary. "When President Joe Biden outlined his vision of America's role in the world during his speech to the State Department on February 4, the role played in this context by the alliance between the United States and Japan could not be illustrated. more clearly, ”added Sung. “Diplomacy has returned to the center of our foreign policy. We will strengthen our alliances and our involvement in global dynamics, not to face the challenges of yesterday, but those of today and tomorrow ”.
Among the values shared by the two allied countries, Sung cited "the defense of freedoms, support for universal opportunity and rights, respect for the rule of law and the dignity of every individual". The official also recalled the concrete military dimension of the defensive alliance between the two countries: Japan “hosts approximately 55 US troops, the largest continent of US forces outside the United States. The headquarters of the Seventh Fleet is in Yokosuka, where the aircraft carrier Uss Ronald Reagan is stationed, the only aircraft carrier of the Navy in advanced deployment ”. During his speech, Sung also reiterated Washington's support for Tokyo's claims on the Senkaku Islands, reiterating that that East China Sea atoll is fully part of the mutual defense treaty in force between the two countries.
The Armed Forces of the United States and South Korea embarked on an annual simulated command center computer exercise (CCPT) on March 8. This was announced by the joint staff of the South Korean Armed Forces. The exercise, which will last for ten days, takes place in a reduced format, with the involvement of a "minimum level of troops" compared to previous years and no maneuvers in the field. The Armed Forces of the two countries discussed the extent and modalities of the exercise until last week, as confirmed in recent days by the spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry, Boo Seung-chan. "South Korea and the US have discussed how to conduct the exercises taking into account Covid-19 and other circumstances," said the official, referring to the stalled negotiations on denuclearization with North Korea, and the review of policies in the confrontations of Pyongyang undertaken by the administration of President Joe Biden.
The news, which to some extent also affects NATO member countries, is that the governments of the United States and South Korea have reached an agreement in principle on the sharing of the costs of stationing US forces in the Korean Peninsula, a knot which had weighed on bilateral relations for years now. This was announced by the South Korean government, on the sidelines of the visit to Washington by the chief negotiator for talks on sharing the costs of stationing US forces in the Korean Peninsula, Jeong Eun-bo. According to the South Korean press, the agreement provides for an increase in the financial contribution of South Korea; the South Korean Foreign Ministry reported that further details will be provided in accordance with the procedural process for adopting the agreement. Until now, Seoul had said it was willing to increase its contribution to the stationing costs of US troops by 13 percent compared to the level of 2019, to 920,7 million dollars. Jeong had declared on March 4 that Seoul and Washington could reach an agreement in principle by last weekend. Jeong met on March 5 with his new US counterpart, Donna Welton: it was the first face to face between the two officials since President Joe Biden's inauguration in the White House, last January 20.
South Korean diplomat Jeong, the Seoul foreign ministry reported, had urged the US counterpart, Donna Welton, during the first meeting between the two officials since the inauguration of President Joe Biden in the White House, last February 20, to accelerate efforts to reach an understanding after more than two years of fruitless negotiations. The meeting took place via videoconference. For years, Washington and Seoul have been discussing the redefinition of Seoul's contribution to the costs of stationing the US contingent in Korea, which has 28.500 soldiers. "The two sides have had discussions in the spirit of their alliance, to address existing differences and work towards a mutually acceptable agreement," said the note released by the South Korean Foreign Ministry. "The two sides have also agreed to work together to help strengthen the alliance between South Korea and the United States, as a hub of peace and prosperity in the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia."
The South Korean government is pressing the new US administration to recognize the validity of the agreement signed at the end of the 2018 Singapore summit between the outgoing president, Donald Trump, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The South Korean daily "JoongAng Ilbo" wrote it, according to which Seoul hopes to be able to prepare the ground for a restart of the dialogue on denuclearization between Washington and Pyongyang, despite Trump's exit from the White House. According to the daily, which cites anonymous South Korean government sources, "a message was sent to the Biden administration, with the suggestion to resume talks with North Korea, returning to the spirit of Singapore". The joint declaration signed by Trump and Kim in Singapore in June 2018 committed North Korea to work for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, in exchange for the subsequent normalization of relations with the United States. Progress on the negotiation front was interrupted, however, after the subsequent summit in Hanoi in February 2019. Several South Korean experts believe that the advent of the new presidential administration may open a window of opportunity to return to the spirit of the Singapore declaration; Seoul hopes that Biden will be able to capitalize on the lessons of recent years, to define a new and realistic "diplomatic road map" capable of relaunching dialogue.
Instead, the US administration intends to proceed step by step. On the one hand, to solidify the relationship of military alliance and diplomatic concertation with Seoul, especially in an anti-Chinese key, on the other hand to maintain constant pressure on North Korea, as already announced last January by the Secretary of the State Department, Blinken. The Secretary announced that President Joe Biden intends to completely review the policies and approach adopted by the outgoing US President, Donald Trump, towards North Korea.
According to Blinken, already during his first hearing in the Senate to confirm his appointment as secretary, the problem represented by the North Korean nuclear program "has worsened" during the past four years: "I think it is necessary to review, and we intend to review in full the approach and policy towards North Korea, because this is a problem that has marked administration after administration, ”Blinken said. The secretary thus responded to the hypothesis of supporting a "progressive agreement" for the lifting of some sanctions against Pyongyang in exchange for a verifiable freezing of the North Korean arms program. The official said the presidential administration intends to "study the options available to us, and which ones can be effective in terms of increased pressure on North Korea to sit at the negotiating table, as well as in terms of any other possible diplomatic initiatives that may be possible. ". Blinken pointed out that this process includes the United States' main regional allies, starting with South Korea and Japan.
The spokesman for the US State Department, Ned Price, however, belittled the concerns expressed by some analysts and journalists, regarding the decision of the administration of President Joe Biden not to attempt contacts with North Korea. Price said the administration in charge is not worried that the lack of contact could trigger any provocation by Pyongyang: “We would be more concerned by the prospect of not closely coordinating our initiatives with our partners - in this specific case, of course, the Republic of Korea and Japan, ”the spokesman said. According to Prince, "the risk of moving too quickly, whether it is the question of Iran or North Korea, is greater than not moving in a coordinated manner with our allies and partners". US President Joe Biden's administration has expressed its intention to fully review former White House tenant Donald Trump's policy towards North Korea. Price said the State Department is reviewing its policies focusing on the priorities of giving adequate space to the demands of allies, and "improving the lives of the people of North and South Korea", along with a commitment to achieve the denuclearization of Pyongyang. However, the spokesman did not provide any details regarding the potential new directions of US policy towards the Korean Peninsula.
Anthony Blinken, during a television interview granted to the broadcaster "Nbc", stated that the administration of President Joe Biden reserves the right to impose new sanctions on Pyongyang in coordination with the allies of the United States, but is also ready to grant unspecified "diplomatic incentives" to push the North to make progress towards denuclearization. Asked if it is time to take note of the situation on the ground, and recognize North Korea as a nuclear power, Blinken said that “what we are dealing with is a very serious problem, which has worsened over time. And I am the first to acknowledge that the problem has worsened through more administrations ”. Blinken explained that "the first thing the president has asked us to do is to review the policy, to make sure we use the most effective tools to advance denuclearization." The secretary avoided denying or confirming the possibility of a future meeting between Biden and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Blinken also reported that his first foreign visit will be "probably to Europe or Asia, from our closest allies and partners".
In the US, there is a beginning to fear the risk associated with the likely offensives of the Taliban after their military withdrawal.
In a letter sent to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warned that according to information in his possession, the Taliban could quickly launch military offensives in Afghanistan once US and NATO troops withdraw. . It seems a letter written because the mother-in-law intends, not because the Afghan government does not know what is about to happen, probably with the complicity of some of its exponents and who are as well known as they are unwelcome Pakistani politicians and military. Complex problems that certainly do not see the Russians or the Chinese absent.
In January, the Biden administration announced it would review the peace deal with the Taliban it concluded during Donald Trump's presidency. According to this agreement, the 10 thousand US soldiers who are still in the country should withdraw by May 90st in exchange for some guarantees from the Taliban. The White House now announces that it intends to make sure the Taliban honor their commitments before they leave the country. Washington demands, in particular, that the Taliban be less violent and that they no longer have ties with the terrorists. In Blinken's letter, who was able to view the BBC, a reduction in violence is called for in the next XNUMX days. In the letter, Blinken also hopes for a further effort by the international community to achieve peace in the country with a "broad and permanent ceasefire".
In reality, the letter seems written more to posterity who will have to pronounce the arduous sentence on the causes, the deep reasons, the method followed in the long Afghan conflict, rather than seriously questioning what was already decided first by Trump and then by Biden himself: l exit from Afghanistan as soon as possible.
It is true that Blinken is pressing to restart peace negotiations, but confirming the May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of US troops does not show that he has negotiating possibilities.
The Secretary of State has proposed a series of initiatives to restart peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban but the "confirmed commitment to the complete withdrawal of the approximately 2.500 US soldiers" has weakened the president, despite Blinken stressing in the aforementioned letter that Washington is engaged in a "high-level diplomatic effort" to achieve a "complete and permanent" ceasefire by asking the United Nations to summon foreign ministers and envoys from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the United States to "discuss a unified approach to sustain peace in Afghanistan".