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Ambassador Yamagami: Biden’s four pillars of anti-China cooperation

Written by: (Contributed) on 4 March 2021


Studies of diplomacy invariably reveal a great deal about the inner workings of governmental systems, political priorities and military and security considerations.

The key players, likewise, are also useful to study: their origins, expertise, nature of previous appointments and timing of their arrival and eventual departure from host countries all reveal significant information; such is the case with Japan's new ambassador in Canberra.

Last month, Japan's new ambassador, Shingo Yamagami, (right, with head of the ADF Angus Campbell), arrived in Canberra to present his credentials to the Australian government, which immediately recognised and upheld the appointment. Both Japan and Australia are the major players in the Indo-Pacific region, operating under US tutelage; the diplomatic position was in line with the establishment of the Biden presidential administration in the White House and formulation of foreign policy.
The Indo-Pacific region has become a major priority for the US, with the rise of China as a competitor, dislodging traditional US-led hegemonic positions. The sense of urgency in Washington and the Pentagon can be easily assessed with the findings of a recent business intelligence study which concluded an initial forecast that China would dislodge the US as the biggest global economy by 2028 had been reduced still further to 2026 on account of 'China's superior management of COVID-19' pandemic. (1)
US preparations to respond to the problem of China have included elevating Japan to a fully-fledged northern regional hub for 'US interests'; the moves have included compliant governments in Tokyo attempting to discard Clause 9 of their pacifist constitution. It has been noted that 'under this framework, the US-Japan alliance becomes upgraded to a global alliance'. (2) The developments have taken place alongside Australia being used as a southern counterpart, with increased US military involvement in military facilities in the northern parts of the country and South Australia being developed as a major defence manufacturer.
There has been little ambiguity about the stated intentions of US-led military planning; Japan has increasingly taken a more active role in military and security provision in the Indian Ocean region, while a recent statement from Canberra referred to Australia's role in what was referred to the 'backyard'. (3) US-led regional diplomacy has sought to foster stronger links into the region by the two hubs being surrounded by spokes; it has been noted 'Australia's Pacific step-up co-operation as well as its South-east Asian development partnership program … has coincided with … Japan also expanding diplomatic, economic and security engagement in South-east Asia and the Pacific'. (4)
With the clearly defined roles of both Japan and Australia within US-led defence and security frameworks, Ambassador Yamagami, subsequently provided a fully detailed statement about regional foreign policy on behalf of the Biden administration. It included four important considerations, they were:
the economic links between Japan and Australia were considered the primary concern; favourable trade relations were considered extremely important. 
They were used to support a second pillar; security co-operation. Areas of concern were the South China and East China Seas, with the implementation of the Reciprocal Access Agreement 'to institutionalise the framework for activities including joint drills and training in both countries'. (5) Military agreements between Japan and Australia have already been established to enable 'Japan's Self-Defence Forces to protect Australian defence Force assets if they come under threat'. (6) 
The third pillar included reference to intelligence co-operation. Yamagami as a former head of the Intelligence and Analysis Service of the Japanese Foreign Ministry is, presumably, no stranger to the darker side of such activity and it would only be natural behaviour for him to remain preoccupied with such pursuits. (7) 
Finally, the fourth pillar was regarded as consisting of co-operation in regional forums together with international co-operation to extend diplomatic influences.
An incoming statement from veteran US diplomat William Burns, a nominee to lead the CIA during the Biden administration, has already thrown light upon what Australia will be directed to accept when it was noted: 'China would be his main focus' and 'out-competing China will be the key to our national security in the decades ahead'. (8)
Australia would appear to be placed on a continuum of escalating diplomatic US-led hostilities directed at China and perceived influences for decades to come where real-war scenarios are a distinct possibility.
Two recent official media releases should, therefore, be considered as realistic assessments of the predicament Australia now faces: the 2020 Defence Strategic Update noted 'Australia's security environment is increasingly characterised by grey zone competition … which falls short of war'; another however, from a leading military figure, suggested recently that 'the prospect of a major war in the Indo-Pacific is a terrifying but realistic possibility'. (9)
These Cold War positions have little to offer ordinary people:
                                          We need an independent foreign policy!
1.     Omnipotent Xi tightens his grip, The Weekend Australian, 27-28 February 2021.
2.     The reasons behind Washington's push for GSOMIA, Hankyoreh, 12 November 2019.
3.     The normalisation of Japanese policy in the Indian Ocean region, Future Directions International, 21 June 2018; and, 'As one wife to another', Australian, 25 February 2021; see also, Hankyoreh, ibid., which states Japan's Abe administrations systematically increased their military capacities for possible intervention on the Korean peninsula.
4.     We've got a great partnership built on strong pillars, Australian, 26 February 2021.
5.     Ibid.
6.     Quad leaders looking 'to muscle up to Beijing', Australian, 8 February 2021.
7.     Australian, op.cit., 26 February 2021; and, Security co-operation 'vital to counter China', Australian, 26 February 2021.
8.     Tell them what they need to hear: CIA pick, Australian, 26 February 2021.
9.     We can't combat China's 'grey zone' war while polarised, Australian, 20 January 2021; and, National security at risk without unity on threat preparation, Australian, 22 February 2021.


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