US Secretaries of State, Defense call America’s partnerships “force multipliers”

Posted on : 2021-03-16 17:25 KST Modified on : 2021-03-16 17:25 KST
The secretaries wrote in the Washington Post that the US will “lead with diplomacy”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (AP/Yonhap News)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (AP/Yonhap News)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin reaffirmed that efforts with allies to contain China would be a key focus of the Joe Biden administration’s foreign policy ahead of their scheduled visits to South Korea and Japan.

Their remarks played up the significance of a breathless weeklong diplomatic schedule that sees the US following up its Quad summit Friday (with Japan, India and Australia) with the two secretaries’ South Korea and Japan visits from Tuesday to Thursday and a meeting of US and China’s foreign ministers on Thursday.

Ahead of their successive visits to Japan and South Korea, Blinken and Austin co-authored a Sunday guest opinion piece in the Washington Post titled “America’s partnerships are ‘force multipliers’ in the world.”

Explaining the context of their piece, the two secretaries said they wanted to explain how vital allies are to US national security and how helpful they are to the US public ahead of the South Korea and Japan visits.

“Our alliances are what our military calls ‘force multipliers.’ We’re able to achieve far more with them than we could without them,” they wrote, emphasizing how allies substantially reinforce combat capabilities.

“Our work with Japan and South Korea covers a vast range of issues that are critical to our security and prosperity — and to the world’s,” they added. As examples, they pointed to North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, climate change, cyber security and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blinken and Austin described it as being a US interest and a shared aim of South Korea, the US and Japan “for the Indo-Pacific region to be free and open, anchored by respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”

They went on to single out China as a country that does not share the same vision.

“As countries in the region and beyond know, China, in particular, is all too willing to use coercion to get its way,” they wrote.

“Our combined power makes us stronger when we must push back against China’s aggression and threats,” they continued.

“Together, we will hold China accountable when it abuses human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, systematically erodes autonomy in Hong Kong, undercuts democracy in Taiwan or asserts maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law,” they added.

Blinken and Austin also recalled Biden’s remarks about how the US “will lead with diplomacy.”

“At the same time, we will maintain the world’s most powerful armed forces,” they added, signaling the aim of not only speaking out to uphold the interests and values of the US and its allies but also maintaining their dominance in terms of force.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (EPA/Yonhap News)
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (EPA/Yonhap News)

In another joint contribution to the Washington Post the same day, the leaders of the Quad countries, who held their first summit via video conference Friday, clearly indicated their strong commitment to cooperating toward reining in China.

The opinion piece, titled “Our four nations are committed to a free, open, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region,” was co-authored by Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

While they did not mention China directly, the leaders wrote in their piece that the “shared vision for an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, resilient and inclusive” has “increasingly been tested” in recent years.

“Those trials have only strengthened our resolve to reckon with the most urgent of global challenges together,” they added.

Through its publication of joint opinion pieces with the Quad leaders and its own diplomatic and defense leaders, the US is seeking to amplify its messaging concerning the strengthening of alliances and containment of China.

The US State Department also stressed the importance of the US-Japan alliance in a document titled “Reaffirming the Unbreakable U.S.-Japan Alliance,” which it released ahead of Blinken’s Asia tour.

In the document, the department affirmed the importance of the relationships not only between the US and its allies, but also among those allies.

“No relationship is more important than that between Japan and the Republic of Korea,” it said.

It also stressed that the US was strengthening its trilateral cooperation with South Korea and Japan on a wide range of international issues, including North Korea’s denuclearization and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. During Blinken and Austin’s Asia visit, the US appears likely to emphasize the need to improve ties between Seoul and Tokyo.

On his way home from Asia, Blinken is scheduled to meet in Alaska on Thursday for his first face-to-face meeting with Chinese Communist Party Politburo member Yang Jiechi.

By Hwang Joon-bum, Washington correspondent

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