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Asia is a US foreign policy priority as Washington supports alliances

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The Indo-Pacific will play a much larger role in US foreign policy, with Asia being the top priority, according to political experts.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are in Japan and South Korea this week to visit Washington’s two major military allies in Asia, where tens of thousands of troops are stationed.

Last Friday, President Joe Biden met virtually with Prime Ministers of Japan, India and Australia as part of the first summit of an informal strategic alliance – the Quadrangular Security Dialogue, or Quad, as it is known.

“Asia is a priority,” said Angela Mancini, a partner at Control Risks, on Monday at CNBC’s “Capital Connection”. She said that based on last week’s quad meeting, as well as the general diplomacy that is taking place with the current administration, the US is making it clear that the Indo-Pacific region is important to Washington, compared to the previous administration’s transactional approach.

President Joe Biden, top left, Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s Prime Minister, top right, Scott Morrison, Australia’s Prime Minister, bottom left, and Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister, on a monitor during the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) virtual meeting at Suga’s official residence in Tokyo, Japan on Friday March 12, 2021.

Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images

“In addition to strengthening alliances to potentially counter China, there are also some specific bilateral issues that we need to address,” Mancini said, adding that this includes the presence of US troops in the region.

The Biden administration builds on the framework the Trump administration left with regard to Indo-Pacific strategy and is developing a coalition of partners to work with, according to Akhil Bery, a South Asia analyst with the Eurasia Group’s political risk advisory group .

The spate of diplomatic activity in Asia by US officials comes ahead of Blinken’s meeting with Chinese officials Yang Jiechi and Wang Yi in Alaska on March 18.

Against China

China feels like it is surrounded by the US … and so with their own investments in technology spending and their own focus on the domestic economy, they will be pushing back.

Angela Mancini

Partners, control risks

The informal Quad Alliance is committed to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

According to Harsh Pant, director of the strategic studies program at the Observer Research Foundation in New, the group will have a much more prominent role in the region going forward, possibly becoming “a core of a larger regional security architecture” in Delhi.

For more than a decade, the quad has had a lackluster existence, even after US-China geopolitical tensions worsened from 2017, followed by a deterioration in India-China relations, Pant said on CNBC’s Street Signs Asia on Monday. The group’s profile has risen in recent months, he said.

Last year India invited Australia to join the United States and Japan in the Malabar naval exercises. New Delhi resisted Canberra’s participation for years, considering that the move would provoke Beijing.

Pant said India appears to be reassessing its policy towards China after being a “fence sitter” in the greater balance of power in the region. New Delhi is now making “the reasons for joining certain platforms very clear,” he added.

The Quad’s joint statement last Friday avoided any direct mention of China and its foreign policy in the region and instead focused on areas such as efforts to distribute Covid-19 vaccines.

This agreement is already a “significant step forward” and shows that the group is able to deliver tangible results rather than just talking about the China challenge, “Eurasia Group’s Bery told CNBC via email .

It remains to be seen how far the Biden government can get allies to look at developments in the region from a multilateral perspective, but it is likely that Beijing will push back, Control Risks’ Mancini said.

“China feels that they are surrounded by the US and that that feeling is real and growing. Therefore, they will push back their own investment in tech spending and their own focus on the domestic economy,” she said.

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Katherine Clark