Seoul, South Korea (CNN) A year after Russia invaded Ukraine, Xi Jinping’s support for Vladimir Putin has opened the door for the United States and its Pacific partners to boost sometimes strained relations at Beijing’s expense.
In the past few months alone, Japan pledged to double defense spending obtaining long-range weapons from the United States; South Korea has recognized that stability in the Taiwan Strait necessary for its security; the The Philippines announced new access rights to US bases He talks about joint patrols of the South China Sea with Australia, Japan and the United States.
These may be the largest of the overtures, but they are far from the only events that have left China increasingly isolated in its own backyard as it refuses to condemn the invasion of a sovereign country by its partner in Moscow while maintaining military pressure on autonomy. Taiwan Island.
Analysts say all of these things would likely have happened had it not been for the war in Ukraine, but the war and China’s support for Russia helped slide the completion of these projects.
Take the situation in Japan, a country restricted in its constitution after World War II to “self-defense” forces. Now it will buy long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles from the United States, weapons that can strike inside China.
“I have a strong sense of urgency for Ukraine today to be East Asia tomorrow,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at a major defense conference in Singapore last summer.
In December, Kishida followed this up with a plan to double Tokyo’s defense spending while acquiring ranged weapons outside Japanese territory.
John Bradford, senior fellow at S.
The nation that Japan feels particularly vulnerable is China.
The People’s Liberation Army has been growing and modernizing its forces for years. On Sunday, Beijing announced its military budget for 2023, which will increase by 7.2%. This was the first time in the past decade that the army’s budget growth rate had increased for three consecutive years.
Outgoing Premier Li Keqiang said: “The armed forces should step up military training and readiness in all fields, develop new military strategic directions, devote more energy to training under combat conditions, and make well-coordinated efforts to strengthen military action in all areas.” trends and areas. In submitting a budget report.
China’s ruling Communist Party has been pressuring Taiwan for years. It considers the island part of its territory, although it never controlled it, and Chinese leader Xi has repeatedly refused to rule out the use of force in his “reunification” with the Chinese mainland.
There is concern that China might one day treat Taiwan the same way Russia treats Ukraine.
Leaders in Tokyo said peace across the Taiwan Strait is essential to Japan’s security. This is really nothing new, but the urgency in Japan is there.
“Japan has been strengthening its defense posture for years. The situation in Ukraine has made the core component of Kishida’s new national security strategy, and the anticipated next steps in that buildup, politically easier,” Bradford said.
In the current climate, the leadership in South Korea is viewing Taiwan in a similar light.
“Peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait are essential to achieving peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, and are indispensable to the security and prosperity of the region as a whole,” Foreign Minister Park Jin told CNN recently.
There is concern in Seoul that if US forces are drawn into any conflict with China over Taiwan, South Korea will look vulnerable in the eyes of Kim Jong-un in a nuclear-armed North.
This has led to calls for South Korea to be more self-defense, including a call for it to have its own nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, Seoul and Tokyo are working more closely together on defense matters, including joint naval exercises with the United States.
South Korea is also seeing increased demand for the weapons it produces, such as tanks, howitzers, and combat aircraft.
signed a multi-billion dollar deal with Poland, Ukraine’s neighbor to the West and part of the US-led NATO alliance, to all of these clauses. It sells them in the region as well.
Last month, Korea Aerospace Industries announced that it would sell 18 of its FA-50 light fighter aircraft to Malaysia.
Another operator of these FA-50s is the Philippines. Manila is also a customer of Korean-made warships and maritime patrol vessels.
And the cooperation network becomes more complex.
The Philippines is in talks with the United States, Australia and Japan for joint patrols in the South China Sea, as China occupies islands that the Philippines also claims.
Manila agreed last month to give Washington more access to military facilities in the archipelago.
Analysts said China may have been its biggest detractor when it comes to the Philippines, regardless of what it was doing about the Ukraine war.
Former President Rodrigo Duterte was not a fan of Washington and looked for ways to work with Beijing. Analysts said China has never shown any appreciation for this, and that his successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., has shown himself eager to work with the United States and its allies.
“It is difficult for the new Marcos administration to justify accommodating Beijing’s policy preferences when previous attempts to do so were not reciprocated by the previous government,” said Jeffrey Urdaniel, director of maritime security at the Pacific Forum and associate professor at Tokyo International University. .
“Beijing’s continued bullying, as we saw with the case of the Chinese Coast Guard blinding Philippine Coast Guard sailors with lasers (recently), has only served to demonstrate a stronger alliance” with Washington, said Blake Herzinger, non-resident fellow. He is a defense policy expert for the Indo-Pacific region at the American Enterprise Institute.
Analysts said that China’s pressure on the Philippines is having repercussions on the other side of the South China Sea.
“Singapore and Vietnam are becoming more open to larger American footprints in the region. They don’t want China to dominate Southeast Asia,” Ordaniel said.
But the Ukraine war has been unhelpful in one major US partnership in the Indo-Pacific, the informal Quadruple alliance linking the United States, Japan, Australia and India, according to analysts.
India, unlike the other three members, has not condemned Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
“When the US, Australia and Japan tried to condemn Russia through a joint statement, India refused… India claimed that the Quartet only deals with Indo-Pacific challenges, and since Russia is not in the region, this topic cannot be broached,” said Derek Grossman, senior Defense analysts at the RAND Corporation:
But he said the division in the quad did not distract from his focus.
“The Quartet is about how do you deal with China,” Grossman said.
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