The Smoke Eater for May 23, 2022
"Joe Byron," big bucks, and baby goats.
Good morning, this is The Smoke Eater for Monday, May 23, 2022, and here's something to cure your case of the Monday's.
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U.S. President Joe Biden is in the middle of a jet-setting tour around the Asia-Pacific region that's intended to schmooze allies.
The fact that Biden is doing any of this speaks to the warmongers and nailbitters in D.C.'s collective brainspace who worry Russia's invasion of Ukraine could be a signal for China to go shithouse on Taiwan, but this is likely an oversimplification of China's goals in Taiwan. It's also a genuine failure to realize China's military is largely untested considering its only real military action since 1979 has been fighting college students in Hong Kong who were armed with (at worst) fire bombs and bows and arrows, attacking random fisherman and playing chicken in the South China Sea.
BONUS: The U.S. and Japan announced a joint space partnership that will include with the first Japanese astronaut. This partnership comes as Russia pulls out of international agreements in space.
BELOW THE FOLD
Biden announced Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), a new trade agreement with 14 pacific nations. Aside from a fact-sheet, there isn't much known about the IPEF (yet). The AP does have an explainer, and says the White House wants to wrap this up in within the next 18 months -- which would likely make it a campaign issue in the 2024 elections.
The signatories to the new, not-TPP include Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam with room to grow as the agreement's four pillars -- trade, supply chains, clean energy, and tax and anti-corruption -- are more like guidelines than rules (for now).
The whole thing sounds like the TPP in that it's a U.S.-led trade agreement that's intended to keep cheap Chinese toys from dominating the international sandbox, and coincidentally comes as The Center for Strategic and International Studies is set to drop a report detailing how China could be spending as much as $400 billion to prop up domestic industries.
BONUS: Fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine, plus China's rocky relationships with the west and its production problems have international bean counters speculating that the dollar might reach parity with the Euro (Thanks, Biden).
One More Thing...
At one point in the trip, Biden broke with long standing U.S. policy and said the U.S. would defend Taiwan militarily. The full conversation went like this:
Q - “You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons. Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?”
Q: “You are?”
BIDEN: “That’s the commitment we made.”
Within about an hour, White House officials were walking that back in a statement to reporters, saying the,"basic positions on Taiwan remain unchanged."
The New York Times notes that Biden drew comparisons to Ukraine in saying, "The idea that that can be taken by force, just taken by force, it’s just not appropriate,” adding, “It would dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine. And so it’s a burden that is even stronger.”
We could add this to Biden's lifelong struggle with foot-in-mouth disease, but it's not the first time Biden has suggested the U.S. could break from its policy of "strategic ambiguity" to defend Taiwan.
OK, here's your cute critter video!
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