U.S. will not ask allies to choose between ‘us and them’ with China: Blinken

March 24, 2021

 The United States will work with its allies and partners to tackle challenges posed by increasingly aggressive China and Russia, but will not ask its allies to choose sides, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday.

The top U.S. diplomat also said countries can work with China when necessary.

“China’s blatant economic coercion of Australia to Russia’s use of disinformation to erode confidence in elections and in safe, effective vaccines, these aggressive actions threaten not only our individual countries, but also our shared values,” Blinken said at a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, where he has been making a trip since Monday for talks with his NATO counterparts.

Blinken said such actions by Beijing and Moscow, along with their military challenges, are part of “the most urgent threats” facing the U.S. and its allies. He also mentioned regional actors such as Iran and North Korea.

To address such threats, Blinken said the Biden administration will reinvent and reinforce its alliances while developing its own capacities.

“And as the U.S. develops our capacities to address the threats I’ve outlined today, we will make sure they remain compatible with our alliances and that they contribute to strengthening our allies’ security. We’ll ask the same of our allies,” he said at the press conference.

“In return, the United States won’t force our allies into an us-or-them choice with China,” he added.

U.S. allies in Aisa, such as Japan and South Korea, have often been forced to face such a dilemma amid a growing rivalry between Washington and Beijing.

While both Seoul and Tokyo have been U.S. allies for nearly seven decades, China is the single largest trading partner for both.

Blinken stressed the need for the countries to come together when necessary to call out China’s bad behavior.

“But that doesn’t mean that countries can’t work with China where possible, for example, on challenges like climate change and health security,” he said. “We know that our allies have complex relationships with China that won’t always align perfectly. But we need to navigate these challenges together.”

Blinken earlier said his country’s relationship with China will be “competitive” or “adversarial” when necessary, but “collaborative” when possible.

He also highlighted the need for the U.S. and its allies to work together closely to counter China’s aggression.

“We must not separate economic coercion from other forms of pressure. When one of us is coerced, we should respond as allies, and work together to reduce our vulnerability by ensuring our economies are more integrated with each other than they are with our principal competitors,” said Blinken.

To this end, Blinken stressed the need to expand U.S. alliances, as well as multilateral forums such as NATO and the Quad to promote cooperation between U.S. allies.

“Too often, we put our alliances and partnerships into silos. We don’t do enough to bring them together. But we should, because the more the countries with complementary strengths and capacities can unite to achieve shared goals, the better,” he said.

“That’s the idea behind the group of countries we call the Quad,” he said, referring to a four-way regional forum in the Indo-Pacific that is currently attended by Australia, India, Japan and the U.S.