Where Are America’s Red Lines in East Asia?
The US decision not to intervene directly in the Ukraine war and risk a conflict with nuclear-armed Russia has prompted East Asian allies to question the value of America’s security guarantee. What would happen if China invaded Taiwan, North Korea invaded South Korea, or China sought to occupy Japan’s Senkaku islands?
TOKYO – Global geopolitical attention remains focused on the war in Ukraine. But a significant shift, potentially even more serious in the long run than Russia’s invasion of its neighbor, seems to be occurring in East Asia as a result of President Vladimir Putin’s war.
US President Joe Biden has explicitly ruled out sending American troops to Ukraine or establishing a no-fly zone over the country. According to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, a no-fly zone “would require, essentially, the US military shooting down Russian planes and prompting a potential direct war with Russia, the exact step that we want to avoid.” In other words, the United States has admitted that it would not want to risk a direct confrontation with another nuclear power.
That stance has alarmed many people in East Asia who rely on the US nuclear umbrella. What would America do, say, if China decided to invade Taiwan, or if North Korea invaded South Korea, as it did in 1950? What if China sent armed coast guard ships to surround and occupy Japan’s Senkaku Islands?