U.S. rebuke China for vaccine diplomacy to set tone for freeze-up Alaska meet

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken set the tone for the first face-to-face meeting with senior administration officials Joe Biden and their Chinese counterparts to be held in frozen Alaska this week, in taking to Beijing for its use of “coercion” with neighbors and its version of vaccine diplomacy that appears to tie vaccine access to politics.

Blinken’s comments, made during a visit to Japan, come just before he and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and the Chinese Communist Party’s foreign chief on Thursday, Yang Jiechi, in Anchorage, Alaska. .

“We will push back, if necessary, when China uses coercion and aggression to succeed,” Blinken said, according to a Reuters report, shortly after he and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin concluded their agreement. discussions in “2 + 2” format with their Japanese. counterparts.

China had come back to their conversation time and time again. In a joint statement released after the talks, the two countries expressed concern over Beijing’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang, “illegal” maritime claims and activities in the South China Sea, and “action unilateral “to try to change the status quo on eastern China. Maritime islands controlled by Japan but also claimed by China.

Beijing has built man-made islands in the South China Sea and positioned military equipment to occupy most of the sea’s waterways. In the East China Sea, China claims the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, called Diaoyu in China , and has recently increased its activities in this area.

The two members of the Biden administration then traveled to Seoul. Secretary of Defense Austin will fly to New Delhi after the Seoul stop. Clearly, these visits are part of the Biden administration’s efforts to mobilize support for cracking down on China’s aggressive policies and reassure key U.S. regional allies.

In a conversation with reporters in Tokyo before flying to Seoul, Blinken referred to China’s efforts to engage in so-called vaccine diplomacy, stressing that the policy came with “conditions.”

“We shouldn’t tie the distribution or access to vaccines to politics or geopolitics,” Blinken said, according to Nikkei Asia.

This policy comes with “conditions attached … and that some demands are being made, and perhaps stronger demands are made of countries to receive the vaccines,” Blinken said, stressing that he hoped that the vaccine deployment was underway because it is underway. the general interest of humanity.

Blinken did not refer to the Vaccine Initiative signed by Quad leaders last week, but the contrast was implied. The Quad plan commits members of the four national clusters to pool their resources to make the vaccine available to millions of people in the region. India will produce, under this initiative, up to 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines by 2022, funded by the United States and Japan, for last mile distribution by Australia in the Southeast Asian countries of the Indo-Pacific.

Dating in Alaska

Blinken’s scathing remarks against China by President Xi Jinping are in line with signals from the White House that President Biden is mainly continuing with the hard line on aggressive China. The meeting in Alaska, a symbolic reference to the lasting power of the United States in the Pacific, will be an opportunity to reinforce this message. To be sure, White House officials have indicated that there aren’t many things the two sides could end up agreeing on. The AP news agency said no major announcements were expected after the talks.

Evan Medeiros, an Asia scholar in the Obama administration who now teaches at Georgetown University, told Reuters news agency that the Alaska talks were like “the first round of a game. boxing”. It was unlikely to solve major problems, but could reduce the risk of future miscalculations between rivals, Medeiros said.

NSA Sullivan, Reuters said, made it clear last week that the United States would use the meeting to convey to China its strategic intent and concerns about China’s actions, including a return to democracy. in Hong Kong, human rights violations in Xinjiang, tensions across the country. Taiwan Strait, economic coercion on Australia and harassment in disputed waters with Japan around the Senkaku Islands. These are areas where Beijing says Washington should not interfere.

Lloyd Austin’s trip to India

The visit of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to New Delhi on the final leg of his three-country tour is a testament to the tremendous strategic importance the Biden administration places on relations with India. Austin, who will meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, among others, had described the consolidation of US alliances and partnerships as the main focus. of his visit. He lands in Delhi on Friday.

Military-military cooperation, defense trade, the Indo-Pacific region and the situation in Afghanistan will be on the agenda. The two sides are expected to discuss strengthening their presence in the Indo-Pacific and a proposal to purchase 30 armed Predator drones – 10 each for the Army, Navy and Air Force – which would cost in New Delhi nearly $ 3 billion.