China’s maneuvers of unprecedented aggression around the island of Taiwan have sounded the alarm in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in South Korea and Japan. Although both countries hosted the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, they were torn between their economic interests vis-à-vis Beijing and their security alliance with the United States. Interview with Antoine Bondaz, Asia expert at the Foundation for Strategic Research.
RFI: Nancy Pelosi, is she seen as a “ difficult guest in Seoul and Tokyo?
Antoine Bondaz : It is clear that this visit is a little embarrassing, because we are in a very tense international context, and that this tense context is due in part to the visit of Nancy Pelosi. However, there is a strong difference in approach between South Korea and Japan. South Korea is more torn between economic dependence on China and security dependence on the United States than on Japan. Japan has taken steps in recent years to assert itself more openly in China, and while there are clear economic interests vis-à-vis Beijing, Tokyo’s security interests take precedence, and we have very strong announcements from the Japanese government with the particular possible doubling of Japan’s military budget, and above all also the strengthening of all Japanese military capabilities to deal with China. So Japan is less “uncomfortable” to deal with this growing confrontation with China than South Korea, even though they clearly don’t want it. South Korea remains torn between Seoul and Washington and above all the North Korean factor must be taken into account, where China, of course, has leverage and is a key factor.
Faced with the largest exercises organized by the Chinese army around Taiwan, Washington raised the tone: the head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken was reprimanded “ provoking “and one” significant increase in tension “. The United States has accused Beijing of having overreaction on Nancy Pelosi’s visit. Washington, however, does not want him to go to the region. Is the American government now in an embarrassment, forced to respond to a crisis in China that it does not want?
Antoine Bondaz: The American government could obviously do without this visit by Nancy Pelosi, who has little interest in the United States. But on the American side, now that this visit has taken place, the consequences must be faced. There is a first dynamic, which is that the Americans are obliged to do more to give credibility to the security guarantees provided by Taiwan, but more broadly to their allies in front of China. Because China’s military capabilities are growing, and therefore the Americans must maintain the credibility of their security guarantee. The second aspect is that we are in a trend where there are more exchanges and relations between Taiwan and particular Western countries, whether economic, scientific, technological, cultural, and that is important from the point of view of the Taiwanese, since Taiwan’s civil society generally feels rejected and discriminated against, although the Taiwanese do not want to change the status quoalthough the Taiwanese have no claim to the territory of another country and the Taiwanese feel that they are paying for China’s provocations.
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What do you think of Nancy Pelosi’s Asian tour?
This visit is above all instrumental today. It is used to serve as a pretext for increasing a strategy of pressure, whether military, economic or diplomatic, which China has used on Taiwan for many years now, and especially since coming to power in 2016 by President Tsai Ing-wen. This visit is also a satisfaction on the part of the Taiwanese population because it is very symbolic and it emphasizes the fact that Taiwan is not cut off from the world and that despite this pressure from China, Taiwan continues to interact all over the world. . On the United States side, the situation is more complicated. The US government could have done without this crisis, it will have to deal with the consequences. It is necessary to strengthen the credibility of the American security guarantees provided by their partner in Taiwan, but also by their Japanese and Korean allies in the region.
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