Our Indo-Pacific Allies Signal That They Don’t Trust the Biden Administration’s Extended Deterrent - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Our Indo-Pacific Allies Signal That They Don’t Trust the Biden Administration’s Extended Deterrent

America’s extended nuclear deterrent has always rested on credibility. Credibility is one of those intangible factors in international relations that can mean the difference between peace and war and victory or defeat. Credibility is sort of like obscenity — it is difficult to define, but you know it when you see it. America’s credibility is based in part on how other countries — friends and foes — assess our words, actions, capabilities, and intentions. And right now, America’s credibility under the Biden administration in the Indo-Pacific — especially the credibility of our extended nuclear guarantees in the Western Pacific — is in doubt.

So writes Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, the director of the Centre for Security Strategy and Technology at New Delhi’s Observer Research Foundation, in a revealing article in the Diplomat. She reports that South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol is publicly promoting the idea that South Korea should develop its own nuclear deterrent. And, as the Economist noted, this is “the first time in decades that a sitting South Korean president has talked about going nuclear.” Yoon made it clear in an official policy briefing that the reason he was promoting the idea is the U.S.’s failure to sufficiently respond to North Korea’s growing nuclear threat. According to the Japan Times, Yoon wants the Biden administration to redeploy nuclear weapons in South Korea.

Last March, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe publicly called for Japan to consider hosting American nuclear weapons as a means to offset China’s strategic and theater nuclear buildup. American East Asia experts have suggested that both South Korea and Japan are now more receptive to an increased U.S. tactical nuclear posture in the Western Pacific.

Rajagopalan suggests in the Diplomat that Yoon’s remarks are “demonstrative of the growing skepticism among U.S. allies on the credibility of U.S. security guarantees.” And she is not the only one who has reached that conclusion. Takahashi Kosuke, Jane’s Defence Weekly’s Tokyo correspondent, just a few days ago wrote that “[t]here are growing concerns in both Japan and South Korea over the United States’ extended nuclear deterrence, or nuclear umbrella.” The region’s leaders are worried, he writes, that the Biden administration will “fail to provide real protection against other nuclear-weapons states, including China and North Korea.” He notes that Japan and South Korea are geographically situated in the shadow of three nuclear powers — China, North Korea, and Russia. Unless the U.S. provides an “unswerving commitment to extended nuclear deterrence through the full range of U.S. defense capabilities,” Kosuke writes, “more and more people would argue that both South Korea and Japan should stand on their own without relying entirely on the United States — even if that means developing their own nuclear weapons.”

Instead of issuing confidence-building statements to assure Japan and South Korea, Biden’s State Department has promoted the idea of “arms control” with North Korea, while the most recent Nuclear Posture Review resisted efforts by China hawks to increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal and delay the retirement of older nuclear weapons. As Bill Gertz of the Washington Times reported, “[a]rms control remains a central focus of [the] Biden administration’s national security policy despite a nuclear weapons ‘breakout’ by China.” A former Trump administration assistant secretary of state wrote in the Washington Examiner that Biden’s arms control policy is “deluded.”

This is after all an administration that miserably failed its first major foreign policy test in Afghanistan, has repeatedly “walked back” the president’s tough-sounding remarks about Taiwan, and still clings to the decades-old failed policy of engagement-competition with China. Taiwan is likely to be the administration’s next major test in the Western Pacific. If it fails that test, whatever remains of its credibility will vanish.


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