Key US, Japanese and South Korean military leaders meet, highlighting US passage to Asia


Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to two of its closest allies in Asia, including its readiness to provide deterrence backed by the “full spectrum” of US military capabilities.

While a reading from the trilateral meeting makes no explicit mention of China, the reference to the importance of a “rules-based international order” and America’s readiness to provide “extensive deterrence” supported by a “full spectrum” of military capabilities is clearly oriented. to what the Pentagon has called the “pace challenge” and the “near-peer competitor” of the country.

In their first in-person meeting since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Milley and other senior military officials in the region also raised concerns about North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The meeting between the military leaders underlines the passage of the Biden administration from the wars of the last 20 years to the competition of the future. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s first international trip in mid-March was to meet his South Korean and Japanese counterparts. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga visited the White House two weeks ago, while South Korean President Moon Jae-in is due to visit next month.

President Joe Biden, in his first address to a joint session of Congress Wednesday night, made the confrontation with China and what he dubbed its “unfair trade practices” a top priority. In conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Biden said he would protect US interests and pledged to maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific region “not to start conflict, but to prevent conflict.”

The meeting comes as the White House has officially recognized the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. At this point, less than 100 of the 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan have left the country, but military equipment and departing service members signal the Biden administration’s determination to leave the country by September 11.

“After 20 years of American bravery and sacrifice, it’s time to bring our troops home,” Biden said Wednesday.

In early March, the Pentagon set up a task force on China to better understand how to meet the challenge that the world’s most populous country poses to the US military. The task force, which is part of the Pentagon’s Global Posture Review, is led by Ely Ratner, Biden’s choice to head the Pentagon’s Asia office.

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