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Biden's Asia policy

Asian allies embrace Biden as China bids Trump 'good riddance'

Beijing says 'kind angels can triumph over evil forces' in regards to transition

The inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th U.S. president was welcomed by allies and partners across Asia. (Source photo by AP) 

TOKYO -- Asian allies and strategic partners such as Japan, South Korea and India offered warm salutations to Joe Biden after his inauguration as the 46th U.S. president. China, meanwhile, was much more circumspect even as it struck an optimistic tone toward the new administration after four-years of Donald Trump's onslaught against Beijing.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Tokyo that he would work closely with Biden to "reinforce the Japan-U.S. alliance" and a free and open Indo-Pacific, as well as tackle global issues such as COVID-19 and climate change. He added that he was making arrangements for a call with the new president "at an appropriate time."

South Korean President Moon Jae-in tweeted: "@JoeBiden, congratulations on your inauguration. America is back. America's new beginning will make democracy even greater. Together with the Korean people, I stand by your journey toward 'America United.'" North Korea has not commented on Biden since the inauguration.

Despite his close relationship with Trump, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave no indication that ties between the two huge democracies would weaken. "The India-US partnership is based on shared values. We have a substantial and multifaceted bilateral agenda, growing economic engagement and vibrant people to people linkages. Committed to working with President @JoeBiden to take the India-US partnership to even greater heights," he tweeted.

Imran Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan, India's neighbor and nemesis, was a little more cautious, even as his country's relationship with China has hit sour notes over Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative. "Look forward to working with @POTUS in building a stronger Pak-US partnership through trade & economic engagement, countering climate change, improving public health, combating corruption & promoting peace in region & beyond," the former cricket star tweeted.

But perhaps the most hearty welcome came from Taiwan, which rapidly grew closer to Washington during Trump's four years in the White House.

"My congratulations to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on your inaugurations as POTUS and VP. We wish you and your administration every success. Taiwan stands ready to work with you as a global force for good. #BetterTogether," President Tsai Ing-wen wrote on Twitter.

Bi-khim Hsiao, Taiwan's representative to the U.S., attended the inauguration on Capitol Hill, the first time a Taiwanese envoy was invited since ties were severed in 1979.

On the other side of the Taiwan Strait, China again attacked the Trump administration but held out an olive branch for the new resident of the White House.

"In the past years, the Trump administration, especially Pompeo, has laid too many mines that need to be removed, burned too many bridges that need to be rebuilt, damaged too many roads that need to be repaired," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters in Beijing on Thursday.

"I believe if both countries put in the effort, the kind angels can triumph over evil forces."

Her remarks came as Beijing slapped sanctions on 28 Trump administration officials, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, accusing them of interfering in its affairs. In a sign of possible future tensions, Emily Horne, a spokeswoman for Biden's National Security Council, said the penalties were "unproductive and cynical."

In a parting shot at Trump, a commentary carried by the official Xinhua News Agency on Jan. 16 ended with the line: "On a final note: good riddance to the current U.S. administration and its final madness."

"Certain U.S. politicians have left a reputation of destroyers of the international order, world peace and stability, and human rights in the world. Time is short for them to wake up to this reality and cure their madness, which is a stain in world history of development," the article stated.

Ye Yu, an academic at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told Nikkei Asia: "[China's] bottom-line thinking is that we are prepared for the worst scenario view, but we are also ready to work with the U.S."

The response to Biden was mixed across Southeast Asia.

"We probably can expect that the relationship will be one that is normal in the sense that there are no surprises, like, for instance, the South China Sea. The shift in the policy of the United States, which was announced by former Secretary of State Pompeo, will remain in place," said Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Manuel Romualdez in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel on Thursday.

Malaysia offered a warm welcome, as did Singapore. In his message, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a statement, "There is a deep reservoir of goodwill for the U.S. in our region because of the vital role the United States has played anchoring regional stability and economic prosperity for over half a century."

Indonesian President Joko Widodo tweeted: "Congratulations @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris on your inauguration as the 46th President and 49th Vice President of the United States. Let us continue to strengthen our strategic partnership, not only for the benefit of our two nations, but for a better world for all."

"Should Biden's foreign policy echo the Obama administration's pivot to Asia, Thailand will remain caught in the middle of these two superpowers," Lynn Sasinpong, a commentator at the Thai Enquirer, wrote on Wednesday.

"In order to survive, on one hand, we are the longest-standing ally of the United States in the region; on the other, we are also a close friend of China. However, this flexible approach will be increasingly difficult to maintain. It is even more so, given Thailand's reliance on China, especially in our pre-COVID tourism sector."

Reporting by CK Tan, Erwida Maulia, Kiran Sharma, Masayuki Yuda, Lauly Li. Cliff Venzon, Kentaro Iwamoto and Andrew Sharp.

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