US President Donald Trump’s administration has declassified its strategy to ensure continued dominance over China, which focuses on accelerating India’s rise as a counterweight to Beijing and the ability to defend Taiwan against an attack.
US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien on Tuesday announced the publication of the document, titled “US Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific.”
Approved by Trump in February 2018, it provided the “overarching strategic guidance” for US actions in the past three years and was released to show US commitment to “keeping the Indo-Pacific region free and open long into the future,” O’Brien said in a statement.
“Beijing is increasingly pressuring Indo-Pacific nations to subordinate their freedom and sovereignty to a ‘common destiny’ envisioned by the Chinese Communist Party,” O’Brien said. “The US approach is different. We seek to ensure that our allies and partners — all who share the values and aspirations of a free and open Indo-Pacific — can preserve and protect their sovereignty.”
The document lays out a vision for the region in which North Korea no longer poses a threat, India is dominant in South Asia, and the US works with partners around the world to resist Chinese activities to undermine sovereignty through coercion.
It assumed that Beijing would take “increasingly assertive” steps to compel unification with Taiwan and warns that its dominance of cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence, would “pose profound challenges to free societies.”
Beijing said the report had “sensationalized the ‘China threat’ theory” and showed that the US had “gone against its own pledge on the Taiwan question.”
“The contents only prove the malign motives of the US to contain China and sabotage regional peace and stability,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) told a news briefing on Wednesday. “We need to ensure that Asia-Pacific is a stage for China and US to enhance mutually beneficial cooperation. It should not become an arena where a zero-sum game plays out.”
While the timing of the release — just a week before US president-elect Joe Biden takes office — raises questions about the motive, the Trump administration’s actions to counter China in Asia have largely enjoyed bipartisan support.
Incoming Biden officials have talked about the need to work more with allies and partners against China, which also forms a key part of the strategy — particularly in strengthening security ties with Australia, India and Japan.
Rory Medcalf, head of the Australian National University’s National Security College, said that the document shows that US policy in Asia was driven by efforts to “bolster allies and counter China.”
However, he added that the strategy was so ambitious that “failure was almost assured” on issues such as disarming North Korea, sustaining “primacy” in the region and finding international consensus against harmful Chinese economic practices.
“The declassified framework will have enduring value as the beginning of a whole-of-government blueprint for handling strategic rivalry with China,” Medcalf wrote in a post for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. “If the US is serious about that long-term contest, it will not be able to choose between getting its house in order domestically and projecting power in the Indo-Pacific. It will need to do both at once.”
The key highlights of the report include:
The report calls for the implementation of “a defense strategy capable of, but not limited to: (1) denying China sustained air and sea dominance inside the “first island chain” in a conflict; (2) defending the first-island-chain nations, including Taiwan; and (3) dominating all domains outside the first island-chain.”
It states the aim to “enable Taiwan to develop an effective asymmetric defense strategy and capabilities that will help ensure its security, freedom from coercion, resilience, and ability to engage China on its own terms.”
The report assumes that China “aims to dissolve US alliances and partnerships in the region [and that] China will exploit vacuums and opportunities created by these diminished bonds.”
It adds that China seeks “to dominate cutting-edge technologies, including artificial intelligence and biogenetics, and harness them in the service of authoritarianism.”
“Chinese dominance in these technologies would pose profound challenges to free societies,” the report says.
“China will take increasingly assertive steps to compel unification with Taiwan,” act to “counter Chinese predatory economic practices that freeze out foreign competition, undermine US economic competitiveness, and abet the Chinese Communist Party’s aspiration to dominate the 21st century economy,” the report says.
It calls for an “international consensus that China’s industrial policies and unfair trading practices are damaging the global trading system,” and urges the US to “work closely with allies and like-minded countries to prevent Chinese acquisition of military and strategic capabilities.”
The report envisions that “India’s preferred partner on security issues is the United States. The two cooperate to preserve maritime security and counter Chinese influence in South and Southeast Asia and other regions of mutual concern,” and that India “remains preeminent in South Asia and takes the leading role in maintaining Indian Ocean security.”
The report says the aim is to “accelerate India’s rise and capacity to serve as a net provider of security and Major Defense Partner; solidify an enduring strategic partnership with India underpinned by a strong Indian military.”
It also calls for the strengthening of “the capacity of emerging partners in South Asia, including the Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, to contribute to a free and open order.”
The report calls for measures to convince “the Kim [Jong-un] regime that the only path to its survival is to relinquish its nuclear weapons.”
The US should aim to “maximize pressure on Pyongyang using economic, diplomatic, military, law enforcement, intelligence, and information tools to cripple North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction programs, choke off currency flows, weaken the regime, and set the conditions for negotiations aimed at reversing its nuclear and missile programs, ultimately achieving the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Peninsula,” the report says.
This should be achieved by “(1) helping South Korea and Japan acquire advanced, conventional military capabilities; (2) drawing South Korea and Japan closer to one another,” it adds.
The US should aim to promote “and reinforce Southeast Asia and ASEAN’s central role in the region’s security architecture, and encourage it to speak with one voice on key issues,” it says.
It should also promote an “integrated economic development model in the Indo-Pacific that provides a credible alternative to One Belt One Road; create a task force on how best to use public-private partnerships,” the report says.
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