US to have official in Tokyo dedicated to monitoring China

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WASHINGTON (Kyodo) — The administration of President Joe Biden will deploy an official dedicated to monitoring Chinese governmental and business activities to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo in July, State Department sources said Saturday.

The dispatch of such a specialized China watcher to the embassy is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to reinforce intelligence gathering, according to the sources.

The department has already added about 20 similar officials in charge of monitoring China to the U.S. embassies in other capitals, including Bangkok, Brussels, Rome and Sydney. The Tokyo posting will be Washington’s first of its kind in East Asia, the sources said.

Diplomats carrying out these specialized duties are known as regional China officers, a category launched during the previous administration under Donald Trump.

The officers are tasked with collecting and analyzing information regarding China’s inroads into the region or country where they are based.

In addition to monitoring China’s actions, the official to be sent to Tokyo will be in charge of promoting the establishment of supply chains for semiconductors and other vital goods that do not rely on China, the sources said.

In Italy, which was initially part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s flagship Belt and Road initiative until withdrawing last year, a regional officer was keeping close tabs on China’s expanding diplomatic and economic clout.

In Australia, an officer is analyzing China’s moves to strengthen relations with Pacific island nations and exploring possible countermeasures, as well as scrutinizing Beijing’s acts of economic intimidation, according to the sources.

While seeking to stabilize relations with China, the Biden administration continues to view the Asian power as its only competitor with “both intent to reshape the international order and the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to do it.”

The Regional China Officer program is now part of the so-called China House, a State Department-based unit created in December 2022 to better coordinate the U.S. approach to Beijing.

The official to be assigned to the Tokyo embassy will be affiliated with the unit formally called the Office of China Coordination, which is believed to be staffed with 60 to 70 members.

The unit is under the department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. The official, who has experience working in China and Japan, is expected to serve a three-year term, according to the sources.

As Washington and a bipartisan majority of U.S. lawmakers share the view that Beijing is the most serious geopolitical threat, the Central Intelligence Agency also established a special unit focused on China in October 2021.

Source: Mainichi