As Joe Biden's job approval ratings remain stubbornly low with less than a year until the U.S. presidential election in November, and with wars raging in Europe and the Middle East, almost nothing about the future of his administration is certain.

Predicting the U.S. political landscape for 2024 is like attempting to read tea leaves, but senior officials have suggested that Washington's foreign policy course, especially toward Asia, will not alter significantly ahead of the election.

Biden and his aides, as well as foreign policy experts, mostly concur that the country's strategic competition with China will continue to take center stage, while the Indo-Pacific region will be the predominant arena in the race for global influence.

They continue to view dealing with China's aspirations for a new global order as the most important long-term issue facing the United States, even amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas war, and this recognition is widely shared by both Democrats and Republicans.

U.S. President Joe Biden holds a press conference after a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the suburbs of San Francisco on Nov. 15, 2023. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Kelly Grieco, a senior fellow at the Stimson Center, said that while she expects a "large continuity" in U.S. foreign policy toward the Indo-Pacific, there are uncertainties over Washington's engagement in Europe.

"There's a problem between available means and political commitments and ends," said Grieco, who has been working on U.S. grand strategy at the Washington-based think tank. "If the United States is going to focus more on the Indo-Pacific, it has to, by definition, do less in Europe."

She said Biden or his successor will have to make some "hard choices about the limits," not just in terms of U.S. financial aid for Ukraine, but also in considering that many European countries are wealthy enough to spend more on defense.

"A bit of a blind spot of the (Biden) administration is that they've emphasized so much unity among allies, but they really haven't had tough discussions about burden sharing," she said, adding that his team seems to think that "numbers matter" more than "the quality of contributions" from each coalition member.

Although foreign policy, compared to domestic issues such as inflation, abortion and health care, does not traditionally play a significant role in U.S. presidential elections, Biden has been relatively successful in the realm of diplomacy since taking office in January 2021.

To name just a few accomplishments related to the Indo-Pacific, he has been credited with reinforcing a latticework of alliances with democratic countries through minilateral groups, including trilateral cooperation with Japan and South Korea, rebuilding defense cooperation with the Philippines and launching a strategic partnership with Vietnam.

But the war between Israel and Hamas, which erupted in early October following a surprise attack by the Palestinian militant group on the Jewish state, has presented a tough challenge for his administration.

Biden cannot afford to lose support among younger voters and nonwhite Democrats, groups that helped secure his victory in the 2020 presidential election.

Yet polls have shown that these voters increasingly disapprove of the 81-year-old president's handling of the conflict, seeing him as too supportive of Israel's retaliatory military campaign in Gaza and indifferent to massive Palestinian civilian casualties.

For Biden, who is hoping to win reelection in a potential rematch against his predecessor Donald Trump, the backing of these groups is essential.

The Israel-Hamas war has dominated U.S. media coverage of international news, and the administration's other foreign policy priorities appear, at least on the surface, to have taken a back seat to the situation in the Middle East.

Senior U.S. officials have made few public comments recently on events in other parts of the world.

Nonetheless, they have sought to reassure their allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific that the administration will stay focused on promoting a rules-based order and bolstering security in the region.

Mireya Solis, director of the Center for East Asia Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, believes the upcoming presidential election will begin to cast a shadow over diplomatic dynamics.

The fundamental question, Solis said, is whether the United States will be able to maintain its resurrected leadership in global affairs, sustaining beyond the election the mechanisms of cooperation set in place by the current administration.

"I do think that this election is going to be extremely consequential," she said, noting also that 2024 will be ripe with elections in other parts of the world, which could add unpredictability.

Other elections will include Taiwan choosing its leader in January as well as Japan's main ruling party picking its president in September, which will determine the country's prime minister.

Biden, a Democrat, may see a tight election race with Trump, who maintains a commanding lead in polls for the Republican presidential nomination.

While the Democratic and Republican parties disagree on almost everything, it is difficult to find differences in their positions when it comes to China.

The two parties' candidates are likely to try to outperform one another with hawkish rhetoric on Beijing in the 2024 race.

Photo taken on Nov. 27, 2023, shows the Christmas decorations at the White House in Washington. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Another important area in which continuity is expected for 2024 is the U.S. focus on economic security. However, the country does not have the slightest interest in signing an ambitious multilateral trade deal.

Solis said a point of weakness for the Biden administration is that it "does not have a very compelling economic agenda" or "a vision for integration" with its Indo-Pacific partners.

The administration's failure to achieve substantial progress on the trade pillar of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework in November laid bare the vulnerability of his key initiative intended to reassert U.S. engagement in the region and provide a buttress against China's growing influence.

As in the era of Trump, the incumbent administration has cited the protection of domestic industries from cheaper goods from overseas as one of its primary economic objectives, and it has taken various measures aimed at revitalizing U.S. manufacturing while turning away from free trade ideals.

"I just don't see the United States making the push to close IPEF very decisively in the middle of a presidential campaign," Solis said.

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