WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is welcomed in the Indo-Pacific region and needs to update its approach to have stronger presence there to counter China’s influence, said the top American diplomat to Tokyo.
Speaking at the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York on Friday, Rahm Emanuel, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, said the region is turning to the U..S. when China is becoming a threat, and he described Japan as an essential player in the U.S.-led alliances and an influential power that works side by side with the U.S. in the region.
“We, as a country, strategically, defense-wise, economically, we have to think of a new and kind of modernized way we approach Japan and the region as well,” Emanuel told Daniel Russel, vice president for international security and diplomacy at the institute.
“The region wants all of America, not just part of America, economically, militarily, diplomatically, politically,” Emanuel said. “Because they know, an untethered China is a real risk to them, and they need America, all of America, its presence.”
Tensions have grown in the Indo-Pacific region, where China has become more assertive over both the South China Sea and the East China Sea and ratcheted up military pressure over Taiwan, a self-governed island that Beijing considers to be part of Chinese territory and vows to seize by force if necessary to achieve national reunification. The U.S. has responded by forging partnerships, drawing protests from Beijing that Washington is playing bloc politics aimed at containing China and curbing its rise.
China portrays the U.S. as an uninvited outsider meddling with regional affairs and argues that countries in the region should solve issues among themselves. In July, it sought to improve its ties with Japan and South Korea by hosting a trilateral forum in the coastal city of Qingdao, when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi extolled neighborly links and urged regional unity.
“The three-year pandemic has brought many changes to the world, but what has not changed and what will never change is the fact that China, Japan, and South Korea are neighbors in close geographic proximity and with cultural links,” Wang said.
“Only regions seeking strength through unity can remove external disturbance and achieve sustained development,” Wang said.
In August, President Joe Biden formed a trilateral partnership with Japan and South Korea in Camp David over shared security challenges posed by North Korea and China.
At the Asia Society Policy Institute, Emanuel called the partnership “a seismic shift in the plates in the Indo-Pacific”. It has changed China’s calculations, and the US can do more, Emanuel said.
“I think it’s really incumbent on all of us, especially in Indo-Pacific, especially if you think China is the pacing power as we say, then you know what, all of America has to participate in this,” the ambassador said.
“If we are going to win, we don’t get to only kind of participate at 45 percent of our strength level. That’s my feeling,” he said.
During his conversation with Russel, Emanuel said that the U.S. politics should not let down its allies.
“They look at the U.S., and there are things that they admire and love,” Emanuel said. “They look at our politics, and they want to make sure that the America they know is the America that’s going to be there tomorrow.”