Commentary on Political Economy

Friday 23 June 2023

America’s Asian allies are quietly joining forces to confront China

Opinion by Josh Rogin

June 22, 2023 at 20:30 Sydney Time

Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to China this week clearly showed that Beijing is unwilling to address any of the national security issues that worry the United States and its Asian allies. Chinese President Xi Jinping sent Blinken home empty-handed, refusing even to establish basic military-to-military crisis communications. Perhaps Xi was humoring Blinken while he awaits visits by President Biden’s more accommodating economic officials.

But Blinken wasn’t the only senior U.S. national security official in Asia recently. While the Beijing talks grabbed all the headlines, national security adviser Jake Sullivan was in Tokyo, participating in high-level diplomatic meetings with America’s top regional partners. Sullivan’s counterparts from Japan, the Philippines and South Korea all met with U.S. officials and (in various groupings) with each other. These meetings — in the long run — will prove more consequential for dealing with China’s rise than Blinken’s Beijing visit.

The White House’s readout of Sullivan’s trip failed to capture the unprecedented nature of this quiet diplomacy. For the first time, national security advisers from Japan, the Republic of the Philippines and the United States met as a trio. This is an elevation of a new trilateral grouping insiders call JAROPUS, combining the names of the three countries in a similar way to AUKUS, the more formal grouping of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Another meeting in Tokyo that brought the U.S., Japanese and South Korean national security advisers together would have been unthinkable not long ago. But Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol have both taken significant political risks to move past historical grievances and join forces to confront their shared concerns regarding China’s regional aggression. The two leaders are expected to meet together with Biden for the first time in Washington later this year.

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