Blinken says the Indo-Pacific will shape the trajectory of the 21st century as counterweight to China’s aggressive actions

“I am here, we are here, because what happens in the Indo-Pacific, more than any other region, will shape the trajectory of the world in the 21st century,” Blinken said.

Blinken’s trip marks his first visit to Southeast Asia as Biden’s top diplomat, after nearly a year as president of the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, the Biden administration faces a number of pressing foreign policy challenges that have caught the attention of top Biden administration officials, including Russia’s aggression over the deal negotiations. Ukraine and Iran have so far been unsuccessful.

But confronting an increasingly aggressive China is considered Biden’s most important international challenge, and this visit is part of that mission. Earlier this year Blinken said that China is America’s “biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century”.

Blinken has highlighted concerns about Beijing’s “aggressive actions” in the South China Sea, which he says threaten the movement of more than $3 trillion a year in trade. He said the US is determined to ensure freedom of navigation in the region together with partners in the region.

“Countries in the region want this behavior to change. So do we,” Blinken said, without naming China.

In addition to Indonesia, Blinken will also visit Thailand and Malaysia during his trip.

Some regional experts have expressed concern that Blinken has only recently visited the area. And the Biden administration has yet to reveal its overall Indo-Pacific strategy.

“We will adopt a strategy that more closely incorporates all of our tools of national power – diplomatic, military, intelligence – with our allies and partners,” Blinken said. .

Blinken’s speech focused on the basics the administration has forged when it comes to the region: building alliances, building a free and open Indo-Pacific, defending the principles democratic principles, providing high-quality, non-binding investments and enhancements to public health and security cooperation.

When asked about the time to implement the entire strategy in a press conference later in the day, Blinken countered.

Despite a real effort to focus on the Indo-Pacific region during this trip, Blinken was faced with an unusual situation during his visit: the security adviser’s competitive visit to Jakarta. Vladimir Putin’s national security Nikolay Patrushev.

Patrushev overlapped with Blinken just days after the US and its G7 allies issued a harsh warning to Russia that they must de-escalate their aggression against Ukraine or face dire consequences.

“I noticed his plane on the runway next to us when we landed. I also can’t say why anyone else might be here and what they’re doing,” Blinken said.

Blinken pointed out that the highest-ranking European Foreign Ministry official will visit Russia this week to check whether Russia is serious about engaging in diplomacy – through the Minsk agreement – to de-escalate tensions with Ukraine. or not.

Biden invites ASEAN leaders to summit in US

Blinken said in his speech, Biden will invite leaders from the Association of 10 Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to a summit in the US in the coming months to discuss how to transform efforts this force into reality.

Strengthening the United States’ relationship with Indonesia – the world’s third-largest democracy – is seen as central to the Biden administration’s efforts to compete with China. Indonesia has close ties to China, especially economically, but seeks to maintain independence from alignment with the US or only China.

Many other countries in the region also lack the desire to participate in the great power rivalry that waged the Cold War.

Biden has said that the US and its closest allies are in a “competition” to see if democracies can compete with autocracies like China. But Blinken’s language on Tuesday was significantly softer, demonstrating an understanding of the delicate balance that countries in the region must strike, given their high economic dependence on China.

“This is not a contest between a US-focused region or a China-focused region – the Indo-Pacific is its own,” Blinken said. “Instead, it is upholding the rights and agreements responsible for the most peaceful and prosperous times this region – and the world – has ever experienced.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Tuesday said Blinken’s Asia-Pacific strategy was “self-contradictory”.

“Such a self-contradictory approach is not in line with the spirit of the China-US summit and is hardly recognized by countries in the region,” Wang said, adding that the US should “devotedly respect the United States.” important” ASEAN regional cooperation, instead of “drawing an ideological line”, “mobilizing confrontational blocs” and “sending ships and planes to the South China Sea to show off military force and cause trouble.”

In his speech, Blinken noted the investments the US has made in the region. On climate, the US has spent more than $7 billion in renewable energy investments in the region over the past five years, and on public health, the US has sent more than 100 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine to the Indian Ocean. – Pacific Ocean, he said.

China is the largest trading partner of most of the countries Blinken visited this week, but the US is increasing investment and trade in the region. So far this year, US trade with Indonesia has reached $29.6 billion, up more than 34% year-on-year, Indonesia’s foreign minister said on Tuesday.

Blinken also suggests that the US may offer a more credible option when it comes to investing in infrastructure, an area where China has dominated largely under the Belt and Road Initiative.

“Countries in the Indo-Pacific want a better kind of infrastructure,” said Blinken, citing concerns among partners about what will happen when infrastructure investments become more expensive. infrastructure is corrupt and harmful to local communities. “But a lot of people feel it’s too expensive, or they feel pressured into making bad deals on terms set by others, rather than having no deals at all. So we’re going to work. with countries in the region to deliver high-quality, high-standard infrastructure for their people to deserve.”

To maintain trust in the relationship with the US, regional experts say more frequent engagement will be needed.

“If it is serious about competing with China, the Biden administration needs to continue to deepen its engagement in Southeast Asia, which is centrally located,” said Ben Bland, our Southeast Asia program director. of the geopolitical competition of our time. Lowy Institute.


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