In the Indo-Pacific, nations do not want to be “trampled by a headlong clash” between the US and China, according to Joe Biden’s top aides.
Senior White House national security council (NSC) officials said the US president intended to give allies and other close partners “breathing space” to engage with China in a positive manner in a webinar with an Australian audience on Friday.
Biden had been paying attention to the issues in the region, according to Edgard Kagan, senior director for east Asia and Oceania at the NSC.
“I think the president is very focused on the fact that we cannot strengthen our relations with allies and partners if we just try and jam our views down their throat,” Kagan said. “That’s not who he is.”
Following the G7 conference last weekend in Hiroshima, Japan, when leaders expressed grave worries about China’s activities in the region, Beijing has charged that the group was working together to “smear and attack” the country.
However, Biden told reporters that the US-China relationship would likely improve following the summit, adding that “in terms of talking with them, I think you’re going to see that thaw very shortly.”
The Australian government is likewise working to “stabilize” relations with China. Anthony Albanese, the prime minister, has said he would be open to visiting Beijing later this year provided export restrictions were lifted.
Even though there would be “very serious competition” between the two nations, Kagan stated on Friday that Biden had “long been very clear that he does not want conflict” with China.
“We both have strong interests and important interests but that doesn’t mean that can’t find ways in which we’re able to at least sit down together, work together where possible,” Kagan told the webinar hosted by the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.
The NSC’s director for Indo-Pacific policy, Mira Rapp-Hooper, acknowledged that Biden’s recent comments encouraging productive dialogue with China were also “an important tool of alliance management.”
She agreed that allies and partners in the area as well as elsewhere in the world “don’t want to feel as though they’re being forced to choose between two competing great powers.”
“They don’t want to feel like they’re being trampled by a headlong clash,” Rapp-Hooper said.
“He chose to signal that to the rest of the world, as well, because for so many allies and partners having that bit of breathing space where they feel like they, too, can engage China on constructive terms if they need to or want to is really important.”
Biden shortened his trip to the area and postponed planned trips to Australia and Papua New Guinea so that he could concentrate on the crucial discussions with congressional republicans regarding the debt ceiling.
Due to this, the US, Japan, Australia, and India’s leaders nevertheless convened in Hiroshima on Wednesday, despite the Quad summit’s scheduled cancellation in the Sydney Opera House.
Kurt Campbell, the NSC’s coordinator for Indo-Pacific issues, stated during the same webinar that Biden went to Japan despite the trip being delayed because it would be “catastrophic” to do so.
Campbell admitted that there were “obvious concerns and worries” about whether the Indo-Pacific could “count on the United States” to be a “steady predictable force” in the region.
He said Albanese and Biden had signed a “blockbuster agreement on climate and the provision of critical minerals” despite Biden’s “deepest regrets” being voiced to Albanese.
Additionally, Biden and Albanese took action to make sure “all elements of Aukus” were “on track,” including the nuclear-powered submarine idea and cooperation on other cutting-edge defense technology.
According to a paper released on Friday by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the US-Australian defense cooperation would “grow in scope and complexity” as a result of Aukus and other actions.
However, Col. Alan W. Throop, a US Army War College fellow at Aspi, claimed that US military personnel frequently “did not fully grasp” Australia’s sensitivities to upholding its national sovereignty.
In dealing with the Australian Defense system, he urged the US Department of Defense to “understand that sovereignty is essential.”