President Joe Biden is dispatching White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan to Tokyo this week to talk with his counterparts from South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines.
Sullivan will also participate in “the first-ever trilateral meeting of the Japanese, Philippine, and U.S. national security advisers” while in Japan, said the White House Security Council in a Tuesday statement.
The White House offered few details about Sullivan’s two-day visit that started Thursday. It said Sullivan and his counterparts “will discuss ways to deepen collaboration on a number of key regional and global issues.”
Sullivan’s visit comes after Japanese, Philippine, and U.S. coast guard ships staged law enforcement drills near the disputed South China Sea earlier in the month. Washington has ramped up efforts to reinforce alliances in Asia amid the growing tense rivalry with China.
Washington does not hold claim to the strategic South China Sea, where the Philippines, Malaysian, Brunei, China, Taiwan, and Vietnam have been locked in tense territorial stand-offs for decades.
However, the U.S. says overflight, freedom of navigation, and peaceful resolution of disputes in the busy waterway are in the national interest.
The White House confirmed Sullivan’s travels during a reception at the White House Tuesday for U.S. chiefs of diplomatic missions when President Biden made an off-hand remark that Ambassador Rahm Emanuel, U.S. envoy to Japan, wasn’t on hand because he was preparing for Sullivan’s visit.
U.S.-China relations have been tense throughout the president’s tenure. China launched military exercises last year around Taiwan after then-Speaker of the House, Democrat Nanci Pelosi, visited the democratically governed island that China continues to claim.
Relations continued to sour earlier this year after the United States shot down a Chinese spy balloon after it floated across the U.S. Beijing was also angered by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s stopover in the United States in April that included a meeting with GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
On Saturday, the White House confirmed China has been operating a spy base in Cuba for some time, upgrading it in 2019.
On Monday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the Trump administration had the “same access” to intelligence about China’s spying operations as the Biden administration has.
Former officials with the Trump administration, including national security adviser John Bolton and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, have pushed back against Kirby’s assertions that the spy base was upgraded under their watch.
“The (Biden) administration claims that the base was there in 2019, if not before; all I can say is I was in the White House for part of 2019. I was certainly unaware of it,” said Bolton in an interview Tuesday with SiriusXM’s POTUS channel. “I think I would have remembered it if it crossed my desk.”
The White House confirmed the base following a report by the Wall Street Journal last week that Cuba and China had agreed in principle to build an electronic eavesdropping station on the island off Florida.
Despite growing tension, the Biden administration remains eager to restart high-level talks with China
Despite the growing tensions with China, the administration has been eager to restart high-level communications with Beijing.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is planning to visit China on June 18 to meet with senior officials, according to officials with the U.S., who spoke on conditions of anonymity. Neither the Chinese foreign ministry nor the State Department has yet to confirm the trip. Blinken was scheduled to visit China in February, but the talks were canceled after the spy balloon incident.
Sullivan is in India meeting with officials before next week’s visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Washington state visit.
On Tuesday, he held talks with his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval, that focused on the potential Indian-U.S. collaboration on artificial intelligence, defense, and semiconductors, according to the Indian Foreign Ministry. Sullivan also addressed a business leaders conference where he said the United States was trying to work to do away with regulatory obstacles that are keeping the two countries from deepening trade in areas including high-tech and defense.