Biden’s Asia Trip Produces More Questions Than Answers

Joe Biden’s first trip to Asia as president was positively gushed over by many in the media. Foreign policy and political pundits attached to left-leaning publications and news channels applauded Biden for adopting a strong position against China during his trip. While in Tokyo, Biden rolled out the framework for the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), a trade pact the administration is hoping will serve as a counter to China’s growing economic power and influence in the Indo-Pacific region. On this past Monday, Biden stated the United States will defend Taiwan militarily in the event of a Chinese invasion. Strong, confident words and proposed action by the leader of the free world.

Unfortunately, some factors were left out of Biden’s calculations. To no one’s surprise, most left-wing and/or mainstream journalists failed to make mention of this. On the economic side, Taiwan has not received an invitation to join the IPEF despite demonstrating high interest in becoming a member. Militarily, despite Biden’s promise and sentiment, the United States does not have a concrete war plan centered on countering a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Sure, Indo-Pacific Command has dozens of contingency plans and hypotheticals available to work from, as do the individual services. So, Biden has promised to defend Taiwan with American blood even though the military has no realistic plan for this at the present time. Then we have the administration deliberately keeping Taiwan away from IPEF membership because bringing Taipei aboard will be viewed as provocative and controversial by Beijing.  

Not surprisingly, China is less than thrilled by the US following IPEF and Biden’s Taiwan comments. On Tuesday, as leaders of the Quad nations met in Tokyo, Chinese and Russian bombers flew in close proximity to Japanese airspace. Chinese officials were vocal in denouncing IPEF while China’s state-run media claim the pact is ‘economic NATO.’ Xi Jinping will likely limit his country’s response to verbal outrage and a handful of snap air and sea exercises. Quite honestly, China has more pressing problems to worry about closer to home right now.

In time, China will get around to adopting an effective counter to IPEF and Biden’s newfound military confidence. Then the competition for supremacy in Asia will officially begin.

Biden Says US Will Respond Militarily To A Chinese Attack On Taiwan

The media, analysts, talking heads and pundits have spent most of Monday breaking down Joe Biden’s comment that the United States will intervene militarily in the event China invades Taiwan. Some believe Biden misspoke, while others are of the opinion that the US president’s words were deliberate and contain message to Chinese leadership. The third group subscribes to the theory that Biden was the victim of another mental faux pas and his thoughts on a US response to a Chinese attack against Taiwan change with each passing week and should not be taken seriously.

For those of you who were unaware of what happened earlier today, at a press conference in Japan Biden hinted he would go further to help Taiwan then he has for Ukraine. A reporter asked him if this meant the US will intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese invasion of the island. Biden replied that it did and said so without expansion or clarification. At a time when tensions in the Western Pacific are on the rise, Biden’s words could end up being tantamount to flicking a lighter while sitting atop a powder keg.

The White House moved rapidly to remold Biden’s words, emphasizing that the president stated US policy is not changing.  In a statement handed out to reporters, the White House attempted to conduct damage control. “He reiterated our One China Policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself.”

The Pentagon chimed in soon after with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin sharing his two cents. “I think the president was clear on the fact that the policy has not changed.”

Given the present tensions between China and the United States, Biden’s comments will elicit a response from the Chinese government. Most likely in the coming hours. In the absence of a reaction, tomorrow’s entry will look at just what military steps the United States and her allies in the Western Pacific could take in the event of a Chinese attack on Taiwan.

Upcoming Discussion Topic: Sino-Russian Relations Post-Ukraine War

What shape will the China-Russia partnership take in the aftermath of the war in Ukraine? I realize this may seem like something of a premature subject to ponder while hostilities are still underway in Ukraine. However, given the failure of the Russian military to close out its campaign and achieve its stated political and military objectives, coupled with the requests for assistance Moscow has supposedly made to Beijing, the subject is worth some consideration in the coming days.

Therefore, beginning at some point in the next ten days, in between Ukraine updates and a look at some other simmering geopolitical spots around the world, I’ll discuss the changing dynamic of Sino-Russian relations for the future.

In light of the poor performance of the Russian military in Ukraine and the looming consequences brought on by an avalanche of economic sanctions, Russia appears fated to become the junior partner in the relationship. This holds ramifications for the new trading bloc envisioned by Beijing, as well as for the burgeoning military and geopolitical alliances that had been expected to revolve around Russia and China as equal partners—at least in Moscow’s eyes.

Ukraine Update 18 March, 2022 (Afternoon)

  • Great Britain’s Chief of Military Intelligence Lt. Gen. Jim Hockenhull believes Russia is overhauling its battlefield strategy to one where attrition is the centerpiece. After a little over three weeks of hostilities, Russia has not achieved any of its major political or military objectives in the campaign. The lightning-fast war of maneuver that was prematurely envisioned by Russian general officers has fallen flat for a wide variety of reasons. Moscow is finally realizing the time has come to shift gears. A war of attrition will take advantage of Russia’s overwhelming superiority in artillery. Indirect artillery fire specifically. This will increase collateral damage to Ukrainian infrastructure and likely raise civilian casualties.
  • US President Joe Biden held a two-hour video call this morning with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Before the call, the White House described the call as a component of “ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication” between the United States and China. After the meeting concluded, China’s foreign ministry said Xi emphasized “severe challenges” around the globe. China’s alignment with Russia is a major worry in light of the war in Ukraine and Biden probably broached the matter of Russia’s request for military aid from China during the call.
  • In spite of Russian claims, US Central Command has said there is little evidence of foreign fighters traveling from Syria to Ukraine. The comments from CENTCOM commander Gen. Frank McKenzie on the topic came from a question on Russian efforts to recruit foreign fighters for the war. Earlier in March Syrian media reported Moscow was offering six-month contracts with pay ranging between $200 and $300 a month in a push to increase its force posture in Ukraine.
  • Lviv was struck by Russian cruise missiles again on Friday. The target was a military aircraft repair facility. According to the Ukrainian military, six Russian cruise missiles were fired from warships in the Black Sea and four impacted buildings at the repair facility.

Ukraine Update 14 March, 2022 (AM)

Good Morning. Just a brief update on a handful of events taking shape in or around Ukraine this morning. This afternoon or evening, I plan to post a second update for the day. Either then or tomorrow, I’ll talk a little about some other areas around the world where things are also happening such as the Middle East and Northeast Pacific.

  • Ukraine and Russia began a new round of negotiations today, despite the continued heavy Russian shelling of Kiev and growing casualties. According to Ukrainian government sources, these will be “hard” talks aimed at establishing a ceasefire to be followed by a withdrawal of troops and security guarantees with Russia.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was supposed to address the Council of Europe today, but has stepped away from the commitment due to ‘urgent matters in Ukraine.’ The Ukrainian prime minister will speak instead.
  • The US is quietly warning China it will face consequences should Beijing decide to provide Russia assistance. Yesterday, numerous media outlets reported that Russia has requested military equipment in the past days. As US and Chinese officials meet in Rome, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the US had “been spreading disinformation targeting China on the Ukraine issue, with malicious intentions.”