U.S. leads a coalition of one against China

The reaction of key Asian allies to Beijing’s new restrictions on Hong Kong was not measurably better than the level of support Washington received from its European allies. Japan’s response likely disappointed Washington the most. After more than a week of internal debate, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government declined to join the United States, Britain, Australia, and Canada in issuing a statement condemning the PRC’s actions in Hong Kong. Press reports indicated that the decision “dismayed” U.S. leaders. South Korea seemed even more determined than Japan to avoid taking sides in the dispute between the United States and China.

The bottom line was that with the exception of Australia, the United States could not count on its East Asian allies for even diplomatic and economic support against the PRC in response to its actions regarding Hong Kong. Such an outcome does not bode well if Washington seeks stronger backing—especially military backing—in the event of PRC aggression against Taiwan.

Unfortunately, the prospect of such aggression is increasing rapidly. Beijing has explicitly removed the word “peaceful” from its stated goal of inducing Taiwan to accept unification with the mainland. Equally troubling, PRC military exercises in and near the Taiwan Strait are becoming ever more numerous and menacing. On June 9, Chinese fighter planes once again violated Taiwan’s airspace, causing Taipei to send its own planes to intercept the intruders. The overall level of animosity and tension between Beijing and Taipei is at its worst level in decades.

Washington faces the prospect of being called upon to fulfill its implicit commitment under the TRA to defend Taiwan’s security.