BIDEN POLICY ON ASIA WATCHED
President-elect Joe Biden, preparing to take office on Jan. 20, has been sending reassuring messages to U.S. allies that his incoming administration will value them and multilateralism in a clear shift from President Donald Trump's "America First" foreign policy, according to Kyodo News.
But uncertainties loom ahead for the United States to regain its status as a credible and central player in Asia, where China has grown more assertive and economic integration in the region has deepened compared with the time Biden left the White House four years ago.
The former vice president under the Barack Obama administration is so far building up a foreign policy and national security team joined by experienced policymakers who are not just aware of the importance of alliances but have also played a role in the Asia-Pacific "pivot" or "rebalancing" strategy pursued by Obama.
"It's a team that reflects the fact that America is back. Ready to lead the world, not retreat from it...Ready to confront our adversaries and not reject our allies," the 78-year-old said last month, referring to his Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken, incoming National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan among others.
Biden also appears to give a promising start with Japan, offering a repeated, yet much-wanted, reassurance that the U.S. defense commitment extends to the Japan-controlled, China-claimed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea during his first phone talks as president-elect with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
Some experts on U.S.-Japan relationship said a change from Trump to Biden administration will likely be felt in a "short-term, tangible way" such as through the negotiations on a new cost-sharing agreement for American military forces stationed in Japan.
The four years under Republican Trump have been a trying period for countries including Japan and South Korea, which were pressured to fork over significantly more money in exchange for U.S. security protection, leaving them to fret over whether there could be withdrawals or reductions of troops should negotiations fail.
But under Democrat Biden's leadership, there is likely to "be an effort to resolve the host nation support negotiations relatively quickly," said James Schoff, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, suggesting a more reasonable request from the side of Washington.
Japan may also be relieved from tariffs on steel and aluminum slapped by the Trump administration, which has taken protectionist actions against its major trade partners in a bid to reduce U.S. trade deficits.