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Yasushi Tomiyama

【#975】U.S. National Security Strategy Tests Kishida’s Seriousness

Yasushi Tomiyama / 2022.10.19 (Wed)

October 17, 2022

The U.S. government on October 12 published the National Security Strategy (NSS) that lays the foundation for the Biden administration’s foreign and national security policies. Some media have commented the most important China policy in the strategy as nothing new. But the NSS features stronger words on China than the Interim National Security Strategic Guidance released one year and a half ago, reflecting the rising level of the Unite States’ strategic competition with China.

Vigilant against China’s intent and power

The latest U.S. NSS defines China as “the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to advance that objective.” In other words, it concludes that China has the intent and capability to rebuild the international order. As for Chana’s intent, the NSS says, “Beijing has ambitions to create an enhanced sphere of influence in the Indo-Pacific and to become the world’s leading power.”

The interim guidance, published in March 2021 just after the inauguration of the Biden administration, described China as “the only competitor potentially capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system.” While using the same wording as “the only competitor” seen in the latest NSS, the interim guidance failed to emphasize China’s intent or ambitions and modestly presented China’s capability as potential. While the interim guidance positioned China as a challenger to the existing international system, the latest NSS views China as rebuilding new international order, indicating that Washington has become more vigilant against China.

As for Russia, the interim guidance described it only as determined to “play a disruptive role on the world stage,” but the latest NSS identifies Russia as posing “an immediate and persistent threat to international peace and stability” amid its ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine. Still, the strategy document views the Russian threat as “immediate” or short-term. In contrast, the NSS describes China as presenting “America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge” over a longer term. Japan facing directly China should highly appreciate the Biden administration’s official characterization of China in the strategic document.

Great expectations placed on allies’ defense buildup

The Biden administration’s NSS strongly urges Japan and other U.S. allies to enhance defense capabilities. “As we modernize our military and work to strengthen our democracy at home, we will call on our allies to do the same, including by investing in the type of capabilities and undertaking the planning necessary to bolster deterrence,” it said, representing an unusually strong call.

The strategy document also said, “We want our Indo-Pacific allies to be engaged cooperatively with our European allies on shaping the [international] order [and] on our competition with the PRC,” referring to the People’s Republic of China.

The Japanese government plans to revise its own National Security Strategy and two other strategic documents by the end of this year. The latest U.S. NSS will strongly back up the government’s efforts to fundamentally reinforce its defense capabilities based on the three strategic documents. At the same time, the U.S. NSS indicates that the U.S. will surely raise expectation of Japan’s defense buildup, testing the seriousness of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Yasushi Tomiyama is a senior research fellow and Planning Committee member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and a former foreign news editor and bureau chief in Washington, D.C., London, and Bangkok for the Jiji Press.