Com­ment,

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - WANG HUI The au­thor is a se­nior writer with China Daily. wanghui@chi­nadaily.com.cn

It seems the hours of talks US Vice-Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den had with Chi­nese lead­ers last week in Bei­jing served their pur­pose and the United States might have got the mes­sage, as he said on Fri­day in Seoul that it is nec­es­sary to im­prove co­op­er­a­tion among the US and its Asian al­lies so they can get their re­la­tion­ship with China right.

In a speech de­liv­ered at South Korea’s Yon­sei Univer­sity af­ter meet­ing with South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye, Bi­den said the United States is de­voted to pro­mot­ing co­op­er­a­tion rather than com­pe­ti­tion with China, and the US, Ja­pan and South Korea should be able to im­prove co­op­er­a­tion with one an­other and im­prove their re­la­tion­ship with China in or­der to com­bat shared chal­lenges such as mar­itime se­cu­rity and the pro­lif­er­a­tion of nu­clear weapons in the re­gion.

These are pos­i­tive re­marks, but Wash­ing­ton needs to do more to match words with deeds. To shore up the spirit of co­op­er­a­tion, it may want to read­just its stance and seek to ease, in­stead of ratchet up, ten­sions over China’s de­mar­ca­tion of an Air De­fense Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Zone over the East China Sea.

Bi­den’s week-long visit to Ja­pan, China and South Korea was widely per­ceived as be­ing sidetracked by the US’ crit­i­cism of China’s ADIZ. Af­ter China an­nounced the es­tab­lish­ment of the ADIZ on Nov 23, the US im­me­di­ately joined Ja­pan in de­nounc­ing China’s move. Their ar­gu­ments are hardly worth re­fut­ing as China’s ADIZ con­forms to in­ter­na­tional law and prac­tices — and many coun­tries, the US and Ja­pan in­cluded, have al­ready es­tab­lished such zones.

In his meet­ing with Bi­den on Wed­nes­day in Bei­jing, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping called on the US to re­spect China’s core in­ter­ests and ma­jor con­cerns, and re­it­er­ated China’s prin­ci­pled po­si­tion in es­tab­lish­ing its ADIZ, mak­ing it clear Bei­jing will not back down on the is­sue.

In fact, the ADIZ should not have grabbed so much at­ten­tion as there are far more im­por­tant is­sues for Wash­ing­ton and Bei­jing to dis­cuss. This was the high­est-level of­fi­cial contact af­ter the Third Ple­nary Ses­sion of the 18th Cen­tral Com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Party of China, and with de­tailed brief­ings from Chi­nese lead­ers, Bi­den should have fo­cused on help­ing the Barack Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion gauge the di­rec­tion of China’s fu­ture devel­op­ment and how the US can ben­e­fit from China’s deep­en­ing re­form.

In the fi­nal anal­y­sis, its cur­rent stance over China’s ADIZ stems from what it sees as its obli­ga­tion to stand shoul­der to shoul­der with Ja­pan, its most im­por­tant mil­i­tary ally in the Asia Pa­cific.

But it is un­wise for a coun­try to un­ques­tion­ingly side with an ally, es­pe­cially one that has de­vel­oped a pen­chant for mak­ing trou­ble and pro­vok­ing oth­ers as Ja­pan has. It was Ja­pan that chose to pro­voke China over the Diaoyu Is­lands in the first place, the de­mar­ca­tion of an ADIZ over the East China Sea was a jus­ti­fied coun­ter­mea­sure China had to take to de­fend its ter­ri­to­rial waters.

By throw­ing its weight be­hind Tokyo, which has wrongly pointed an ac­cus­ing fin­ger at China’s de­mar­ca­tion of an ADIZ, Wash­ing­ton is risk­ing its im­prov­ing re­la­tions with Bei­jing. Hence, the US might be ad­vised to re­think its strate­gies in deal­ing with its al­lies and co­op­er­a­tive part­ners in the light of new changes in the world’s se­cu­rity and po­lit­i­cal ter­rain.

Mil­i­tary al­liances, as a legacy of the Cold War, are al­ready an out­dated con­cept in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions. As China’s Vice-For­eign Min­is­ter Liu Zhen­min rightly pointed out last week, mil­i­tary al­liances in Asia are no longer rel­e­vant. If the re­gion’s eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion reaches the same level as the Euro­pean Union there will be no need for them to ex­ist, the se­nior Chi­nese diplo­mat said.

Wash­ing­ton has claimed it has an im­por­tant stake in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion. But as an out­side force, it needs to con­vince the en­tire re­gion that it can play a con­struc­tive role here. It would be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive if Wash­ing­ton only seeks to strengthen ties with old al­lies and not en­deavor to build on sub-re­gional se­cu­rity mech­a­nisms led by ma­jor re­gional play­ers such as the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions.

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