US Deputy Secretary of State Starts Pacific Tour Amid Spike in Washington-Beijing Regional Tensions

© AP Photo / J. Scott ApplewhiteFILE - Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman arrives at the Capitol in Washington, March 30, 2022
FILE - Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman arrives at the Capitol in Washington, March 30, 2022 - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.08.2022
In June, China urged the US to make more efforts to ensure the stability of the Asia-Pacific region as the two sides agreed to keep communication channels open so as to “manage differences” on the issue between Beijing and Washington.
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman arrives in Samoa later on Thursday as part of her Pacific tour, aimed at marking Washington’s “re-engagement with a region where China is gaining increasing influence,” according to Reuters.
Apart from Samoa, the senior US diplomat will travel to Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Australia, and New Zealand, in a tour that will wrap up on August 9.

The State Department for its part underscored that Sherman’s “travel to the region reflects the United States’ commitment to engage meaningfully with fellow Pacific nations in the spirit of partnership and friendship.”

Sherman’s tour comes amid escalating tensions between Beijing and Washington in connection with House Speaker Nance Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, which is perceived by China as an essential part of the PRC.
FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2017 file photo, an American flag is flown next to the Chinese national emblem during a welcome ceremony for visiting U.S. President Donald Trump outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.08.2022
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Pelosi, who visited Taiwan as part of her Asian tour, promised that the US would not “abandon” the island as she met Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Beijing in turn warned that it will slap “tough” sanctions in response to Pelosi's visit and that the US “should not have any illusions about undermining China's development and revival.” Additionally, China launched an “unprecedented” large-scale military drills in the waters off Taiwan, in an apparent show of force.

The developments come after Yang Jiechi, a top official of the Communist Party of China, called for “joint efforts” to secure a more stable Asia-Pacific region and help tackle bilateral differences on the issue during his meeting with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in mid-June.

Yang reportedly “emphasized that the United States should have positive interactions with China and make joint efforts for the prosperity, stability and development of the Asia-Pacific region.”
The statement came amid US efforts to cement its so-called Indo-Pacific policy to contain China’s expanding economic and military clout in the Asia-Pacific region by forging new bilateral and multi-alliances, such as QUAD (the US, Australia, Japan and India), AUKUS (Australia, the US and the UK), and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), which includes 14 countries. These are Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore Thailand, the US and Vietnam.

US 'Rallying Anti-China Coalition' in Asia-Pacific

Dmitry Suslov, deputy director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Moscow-based HSE University, has told Sputnik that Washington is openly "consolidating, strengthening, and rallying its anti-China coalition” in the Asia­-Pacific region.

According to him, “the US National Guard's partnership programs with Asian countries are certainly anti-Chinese in nature” and are part of "the general American policy of confrontation and containment of China.”

Suslov was apparently referring to the National Guard’s training initiative that was rolled out back in 2002. Since then, the guard has added 15 of the 36 Asia-Pacific nations to the program. Among them are Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tonga, and Vietnam.
US Army soldiers belonging to the 1st Platoon, Able Troop 3-71 Cavalry Squadron and members of the South Carolina National Guard. (File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.07.2022
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The Russian academic said that he does not consider the National Guard's program an emulation of a NATO-style alliance in the Asia-Pacific.
“It's just the intensification of the US military relations with its Asian allies, while developing cooperation between the Asian allies of the United States with each other”, he added.
Suslov suggested that even though “the Asian countries will not become formal members of NATO, the intensity of cooperation will certainly increase.”
“The United States is strengthening military cooperation programs with Asian countries, increasing the ability to conduct joint military operations with them, thereby strengthening, of course, the containment of China,” he underscored.
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