US can rely on what China calls “Asian NATO” for deterrence, former officials say

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The United States can rely on regional partnerships with Japan and Australia to discourage Chinese ambition in the region as the two Indo-Pacific countries develop closer ties and stronger military capabilities, former officials told Fox News Digital.

“Japan and Australia share a common position on the need to balance China’s power in the Indo-Pacific region, and we have actually done so for years,” former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told Fox News Digital. “[China] under Xi Jinping he became incredibly aggressive and tried to dominate the region, and that would completely destabilize the region if he did. We need to make sure China understands that we are happy to work with China and sell to China, but we will not be bullied by China. ”

The United States faces a difficult and complex effort to control China’s regional ambitions in the Indo-Pacific. Officials previously told Fox News Digital that the US is relying on overlapping bilateral treaties to create similar cooperation that most of Europe uses via NATO.

The leaders of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) from left to right, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, pose for a photo at the Entrance of the Prime Minister of Japan’s office in Tokyo, Japan on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (Sadayuki Goto / Kyodo News via AP)
(Sadayuki Goto / Kyodo News via AP)

Downer said it is best to operate on the assumption that the Chinese political system “will not change between now and when I die.”

The most reliable form of American deterrence remains the quadrilateral security dialogue (or QUAD) between the United States, Japan, Australia and India. The QUAD does not have the same military commitments as NATO, but China has equally denounced it as an “Asian NATO”.

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“The QUAD grew out of what we originally called the trilateral security dialogue, which was with the United States, Australia and Japan, and India was added by the Japanese, actually, and in a very sensible way,” Downer explained. “Japan has been a very, very reliable ally in the Indo-Pacific region, actually for Australia, and equally for the United States.”

Ambassador Mikio Mori, Consul General of Japan in New York, told Fox News Digital that, aside from its alliance treaty with the United States, Japan has no single “best” ally in the region, relying instead on a mosaic of partnerships with different partners who fulfill different roles.

But the United States sees the relationship between Japan and Australia as a key component of its Chinese deterrence policy in the Indo-Pacific. Former Japanese State Department Official Director Kevin Maher told Fox News Digital that “aside from the United States,” Australia is “clearly” Japan’s most important relationship.

He touted Japan’s role as the region’s leader in “China awareness,” but acknowledged that both Australia and Japan have taken on this duty together.

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The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, through which Beijing invests in smaller developing countries, has helped China ensure influence over the “second and third tier” countries important to the supply chain, particularly for “military areas, cyber hacking and takeover companies.” Beijing even cut Japan off rare earth metal resources in alleged retaliation for a dispute over fishing boats and waters in 2010. Japan by then had become almost entirely dependent on China for these metals.

Japan has since worked to expand its military capabilities, which the US government “has very much welcomed”. Japan currently boasts one of the largest military spending, spending around $ 49 billion annually, ranking seventh, ahead of Russia and South Korea, but behind the UK and Germany.

“In 2015, the then prime minister changed his fundamental policy to allow for what is called collective self-defense,” explained Maher. “Until then, operational planning … was very limited because they could only do what is called individual self-defense, which means they were limited solely to actions to defend Japan.”

The “collective defense” measure qualifies in situations where Japan faces an “existential crisis”, defined in article 2 of its constitution as “an armed attack against a foreign state that is closely related to Japan and, of consequently, it threatens the survival of Japan. “

“This is a direct attack on Japan, for example, the Taiwan Strait scenario or the Korean Peninsula scenario,” Maher said. “So there is a lot more combined training going on and combined planning going on between the US and Japan.”

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The biggest regional unknown remains India’s position and alignment in the region: Downer expressed concern about India’s position, saying it “still has a fairly close relationship with Russia.”

“I don’t see India as an ally,” Downer said. “I see it in the way I would say that, of course, the United States is our last ally, but I would see Japan as practically an ally. India is a similarly thinking democracy – this is how I would see India. , “he added, but admitted that” on the China issue, India has been quite politically sound. ”

“I think we probably think their relationship with China and Russia is a function of history, which is not going to change very quickly,” Downer said, adding that it remains important “to keep India on our side in terms of dealing with the country. aggression by the Xi Jinping regime “.

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Downer believes Australia and Japan must continue to build coalitions in the region, as with Singapore and Indonesia, which he believes will one day “dominate the region.”

Such alliances would add to an already “huge amount” of military force available in the region, with Australia and Japan boasting significant support for US military bases. Should China attempt to make a more aggressive move in the region, such as attempting to invade Taiwan, Downer believes current military alliances and capabilities could repel the effort.

“If they tried to take Taiwan, well, it could be incredibly difficult and incredibly expensive in terms of lives lost and equipment destroyed and the impact it would have on it is already on China,” he said.