Japan has proposed May 24 as the date for the next Quad Leaders Summit coinciding with the visit of US President Joe Biden’s visit to Tokyo. This date may or may not be changed because of an election in Australia slated for May 21 with speculation whether Prime Minister Scott Morrison will win the next term. But a lot has happened since the in-person Quad Leaders’ Summit was hosted by Biden on September 24, 2021, in Washington DC.
The continuing Ukraine conflict and Western sanctions have adversely affected the global economy but the US is determined to keep fuelling the conflict. Biden’s proposal of additional $33 billion aid for Ukraine was raised by the US Congress to $40 billion, despite America being under $30 trillion debt and facing 40-year high inflation. This is because by de-stabilizing Europe, the US arms industry is raking in billions of dollars every day.
The situation also enables the US to hold Europe on a tight leash. To curb inflation, Biden is considering reversing tariffs imposed on Chinese goods by the Trump administration.
The EU has planned to boycott Russian energy by the end 2022 though its effectiveness remains to be seen. Hungary and Slovakia are against the decision and Hungary is opposed to accepting funds in lieu by the EU. Saudi Arabia has snubbed US pressure to increase oil production. Incidentally, Japan which imports 60 percent of energy from the Russian Sakhalin II project has a problem in adhering to the US call for boycotting Russia. However, Japan has said it will try, which implies some reduction.
The US is going full blast on sanctioning Russia. Latest is the US Congress passing a bill for US to prevent Russian participation in work related to international organizations. Biden had earlier proposed excluding Russia from the G20 format.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, while delivering the keynote speech at the annual Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) conference on April 21, 2022, said the Cold War mentality and hegemonic power politics would wreck global peace, and bloc confrontation would exacerbate security challenges in the 21st century. He spoke of Asian solidarity and an Asian security framework – indicating that outside powers should not be part of Asian security framework – the Quad, AUKUS, Five Power Defence Arrangement and the like.
China’s Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng was more direct, who addressing the 4th International Forum on Security and Strategy in Beijing on May 7, said that Americans over the years have been inflaming the Taiwan question to test China’s redlines, flexing muscle on China’s doorstep and creating exclusive groups against China. He also said that “this strategy if left unchecked would bring “horrible consequences and push the Asia-Pacific over the edge of an abyss…. The attempt to copy and paste the Ukraine crisis in the Asia-Pacific is doomed to fail.”
The American reaction to the above statements was through the US State Department spokesperson Ned Price who has said that “the US does not support Taiwan independence and remains committed to the One China policy. We’ve repeatedly made it clear both in public and in private. The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.” He further said that the US does have unofficial relations with Taiwan and America’s stand on Taiwan “has not changed”.
It is quite apparent that the US will not get directly involved in fighting China if it invades Taiwan but will endeavour to support Taiwan from outside – as seen in the Ukraine conflict where it has roped in Europe to fight its war on Russia. There is no way America can take on Russia and China together, especially with the danger of nuclear war. But the US has developed a global biological warfare network which it can use with impunity, as has emerged in the UNSC Arria Formula Meeting on Biological Security regarding the biological activities in countries including Ukraine, held on May 6, 2022.
At the same time, Avril Haines, Director of US National Intelligence has said that China is “working hard” to eventually exert influence over Taiwan’s military. The US appreciation is that China will possibly work to integrate Taiwan without using force though an invasion is not ruled out. As for sanctioning China in the event it invades Taiwan, how would the US do so when it supports the ‘One China’ policy?
Concurrently, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO General Secretary has said that the NATO strategy is being reworked to include China. This is obviously on behalf of the US. But if the US does not want to confront China over Taiwan, what are the other scenarios where the US wants NATO to threaten or combat China in the Indo-Pacific? This requires greater analysis.
Yoon Seok-youl, new South Korean President wants to attend the Quad Summit in Tokyo as an observer. There is speculation that South Korea may join the Quad eventually. However, there are serious differences between Japan and South Korea. Both claim sovereignty over the ‘Liancourt Rocks’ in the Sea of Japan; called ‘Dokdo’ in South Korea and ‘Takeshima’ in Japan. Moreover, South Korea demands Japan to pay reparations for atrocities committed during the Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula (1910-1945), particularly for forced labour and forcing Korean women into brothels as ‘comfort women’ for Japanese soldiers.
Yoon Seok-youl has also offered North Korea financial assistance in lieu of North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons. This is a complete non-starter. On the other hand, if South Korea does join the Quad there is every possibility of Pyongyang taking hostile actions against North Korea on the behest of China.
As for the Quad summit, the US push to get India involved in the Western Pacific, particularly in the South China Sea has been more than evident. In contrast is the recent meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, where Macron talked of India-France cooperation in the Indian Ocean. In the event of an India-China war, there is no way that the US will get directly involved in confronting China. All it would do is to sell arms to India and at best position an odd warship at an Indian port on basis of the Indo-US Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA).,
Neither the US nor the EU denounced China for the aggression in Eastern Ladakh during 2020. In fact, when Lloyd Austin, US Secretary of Defence visited India in March 2021, he just casually remarked, “we never knew India and China were so close to war”. Indian policy makers are aware of this.