China shouldn’t be surprised that Washington and its allies in Asia are deepening their military ties given Beijing’s aggressive behavior towards many of its neighbors, the US ambassador to Japan said Wednesday in an exclusive interview with CNN.
“You look at India, you look at the Philippines, you look at Australia, you look at the United States, Canada or Japan. They (China) have had in the last three months only a military confrontation or a kind of confrontation with each country. And then they are shocked that countries are taking their own deterrent measures to protect themselves. What did they think they were going to do? Ambassador Rahm Emanuel said in the interview at his residence in Tokyo.
The US envoy listed a series of what he called China’s aggressive military actions, including “attacks” on India along their common Himalayan border, Chinese Coast Guard vessels aiming lasers at Philippine ships in the South China Sea, the missile firing in the exclusive economic zone of Japan and the harassment American, Canadian and Australian aircraft by People’s Liberation Army ships and aircraft.
Beijing has denied being an aggressor in any of these cases and has accused Washington of being the main instigator of the heightened tensions in the region.
Tuesday, China New Foreign Minister Qin Gang has warned that “conflict and confrontation” with the United States is inevitable if Washington does not change course.
“The United States pretends that it seeks to compete with China but does not seek conflict. But in reality, the so-called “competition” of the United States is all-out containment and repression, a zero-sum game. life and death,” he said during his first press conference in the new post.
“Containment and repression will not make America great, and the United States will not stop China’s rejuvenation,” Qin said.
Emanuel countered on Wednesday that the military reinforcements and exercises by the United States and its partners in the Indo-Pacific are not acts of containment, as Beijing accuses, but acts of deterrence against further Chinese aggression. – and perhaps more dangerous.
“They came together to realize that (Chinese aggression) cannot continue as it is, so every country is taking action, both within an alliance (and) also in their own interest to create a global deterrence coalition. That’s what’s happening,” Emanuel said.
He praised Japan to double its defense budget and assuming a leadership role in the region, citing plans for it to operate joint patrols in the South China Sea with the Philippines and its agreement with South Korea just this week to settle pre-WWII grievances over Japan’s colonial rule in Korea.
And he praised Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol for putting the future ahead of history and taking a stance that provoked a domestic backlash in Tokyo and Seoul.
“I think both leaders showed courage and boldness to look to the 21st century and make the most of it rather than being bound by the 20th century,” Emanuel said.
“To me, the test of leadership is being idealistic enough to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. And then hard enough to do it,” he said, adding that Kishida and Yoon passed that test.
The United States Ambassador also compared countries with which Japan has partnered, including South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, India and even the United Kingdom, with countries with which the China works, in particular Russia, North Korea And Iran.
“There’s a phrase in America, you’re known by the company you keep,” Emanuel said.
Over the past 18 months, the Biden administration has also kept good company, he said, noting its record of unifying allies and partners.
Emanuel cited multilateral agreements like the Quad – the informal alliance of the United States, Japan, Australia and India – and the AUKUS agreement for nuclear-powered submarines between the United States , Australia and the United Kingdom as well as other economic, diplomatic and military initiatives.
“I think it gave confidence to our allies, like Japan, to increase the defense budget, to be more active on the stage and on the diplomatic stage,” he said, giving credit to Tokyo. to have obtained eight of the 10 members of the Association of the South-East. Asian nations (ASEAN) will vote to condemn The Russian invasion of Ukraine in a vote by the United Nations General Assembly on March 3.
Countries around the world will respond to Japan, South Korea or the United States for a simple reason China doesn’t understand, “the gravitational pull of freedom,” Emanuel said.
“A rules-based system that maintains respect both for the individual and trying to maintain freedom has its own, I don’t know how else to put it, but a seductive gravitational pull.”