Biden Criticized for Failing US Diplomacy in the Pacific
While the Biden administration has managed to make key allies and partners in recent years, failing US diplomacy in the Pacific cannot be overlooked. The Quad and AUKUS, as well as deals with the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands, may seem like Washington is doing alright. But it’s not.
Regional leaders have been left disappointed by the US’s rejection of trade liberalization and inconsistent diplomatic engagement. The Biden admin has been so busy trying to outdo China in the Pacific that now it’s all coming back. The US is losing its touch. US leaders are either hesitant or unwilling to provide the types of economic and diplomatic engagement Beijing has been dishing out.
To cover this, Washington is playing the security and defense fiddle, and labeling China as a threat to the world order, including US’s and its allies’ national security. The Biden administration recently courted Japan and South Korea into a trilateral, assuring and encouraging them that everything is well – with the US by their side, they can handle North Korean and China aggression. No doubt, the US is leveraging China’s unpopularity to gain ground with its allies.
But to keep critics off his back, the US President Joe Biden has officially handed East Asia diplomacy to Vice President Kamala Harris. The US president’s decision to skip the annual 10-nation ASEAN summit, and canceling trips through Papua New Guinea and Australia left diplomats and regional watchers disappointed.
Murray Hiebert, associate at Center for Strategic and International Studies, said for Biden to skip the summit when he will already be nearby attending a summit in India, and likely making an official visit to Vietnam, will prompt many in the region to wonder whether the US is again slipping back to its episodic and half-hearted engagement with the region.
Moreover, a recent editorial in Jakarta Post said the Indonesian government fails to see any valid reason that has forced the US president to send his deputy (Harris) to Jakarta. It added Biden’s conspicuous absence will only raise questions about the US commitment to the region amid the rising tension between Washington and Beijing, and China’s escalating military actions in the South China Sea.
However, the White House highlighted the security cooperation between the US, UK and Australia (AUKUS), the successful negotiation of a diplomatic breakthrough between South Korea and Japan, as well as the ongoing executive actions to hurdle China’s access to sensitive American technology.