Back in Asia, Hagel Pursues Shift to Counter China’s Goals in Pacific –

The so-called “Asia-pivot” looks to be a military adjustment with Hagel as the US face:

“With Secretary Kerry spending most of his time and energy on the Middle East, additional responsibility has fallen on Hagel to demonstrate the United States commitment to Asia,” said Ely Ratner, the deputy director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. But, Mr. Ratner said, Mr. Hagel’s efforts are “arguably at the cost of reinforcing perceptions in the region that the rebalancing policy is primarily a military endeavor.”

In Washington, some defense policy experts say the rebalancing amounts to little militarily and is largely a repackaging of existing policies. It has also antagonized the Chinese, which some experts say they believe is needless.

via Back in Asia, Hagel Pursues Shift to Counter China’s Goals in Pacific –


5 thoughts on “Back in Asia, Hagel Pursues Shift to Counter China’s Goals in Pacific –”

  1. China is certainly very wary of US military involvement in Asia and is watching the American military prioritization of Asia closely. However, I do not believe that China (which is ultimately the country this is directed towards and comes down to) is as worried about increasing US military presence in the Asian Pacific as it is about an increase in Japanese forces. Japan has never much rebuilt (although it does still have) its own military since WWII because there has never been a need. The US has been there most of the time to protect Japan, thereby taking away the need for Japan to develop its own military. However, Japan seems to be pursuing that course despite the US’s increasing presence in Asia. As Japan is still China’s most infamous enemy with a violent history between the two, China certainly fears Japan’s increasing military presence even more than the United States’. Both the US and Japan should tread carefully as China will take steps to protect its sovereignty and sphere of influence just as the United States did with the Manifest Destiny.

  2. I hadn’t heard about the Japanese build-up. That’s kind of scary. It sounds like the Japanese are acting with the support and perhaps even at the urging of the United States.

    I agree that the U.S. and Japan should be careful and consider backing off IF their goal is to preserve the peace. But for a long time, it seems to have been a U.S. strategic goal to ensure that no other great power has regional dominance. Those two goals may be ultimately incompatible.

  3. By the numbers, the Japanese military is not even in the same ball park as the PLA. The real threat to China has always been the U.S.’s close alliance with Japan. This is not likely to change; Japan’s eternally stagnating economy and high debt load make a rapid conventional buildup very difficult. However, there is a very real threat that Japan could decide to arm itself as a nuclear power. The amount of spent fuel rods lying around Japan could prove to be too much temptation for Japanese leaders looking for security against their powerful neighbor. However, because of the military imbalance between Japan and China, a conflict between the two nations would force Japan to back down or use nuclear force. I don’t like those options. At this point, the last thing that region needs is another destabilizing nuclear power.

    Japan needs to be reassured by the U.S. that the United States will not abandon it if and when China begins using its military to pressure Japan during their next political joust. For Obama to cancel his trip to Asia while taking time to break golf records is baffling to me. Assuring our allies at this time should be a top priority given our internal instability, and should be considered “essential” spending. Obama’s decision to cancel the trip because of domestic problems only reinforces the notion that America is an unpredictable ally. The President needs to get off his duff in the White House and show that he is committed to the “pivot” that he has advocated, regardless of republican whining. The cost of not doing so may be paid by more than dollars.

    1. The Japanese military build-up is a very recent development (May 2013 I think), so within five or ten years it could be significant. Despite decades of financial troubles, the Japanese economy remains one of the most productive in the world. Japan may have public debt above 200% of GDP, but their borrowing costs are still lower than the U.S. or Germany – compare e.g. ten year bond yields (For complicated reasons – look at the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) people if you want to hear one set of explanations I find plausible).

      So I think the prospect of a rapid conventional Japanese build-up should not be written off.

  4. President Obama’s cancellation of a long-planned trip to Asia this week certainly does not reflect his goal of “shifting” foreign policy and defense strategy to that region. The so-called “pivot” is meant to detain China’s rising influence in the area. But while Obama is caught up in the government shutdown and debt ceiling crises at home, Chinese President Xi Jinping is active in making China the powerhouse America fears it can become. In a Reuters article, writer Stuart Grudgings points out that,

    “While U.S. and Asian diplomats downplayed the impact of Obama’s no-show, the image of a dysfunctional, distracted Washington adds to perceptions that China has in some ways outflanked the U.S. pivot. ‘It’s symptomatic of the concern in Asia over the sustainability of the American commitment,’ said Carl Baker, director of the Pacific Forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Hawaii. As embarrassed U.S. officials announced the cancellations last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping was in Indonesia announcing a raft of deals worth about $30 billion and then in Malaysia to announce a “comprehensive strategic partnership”, including an upgrade in military ties.He was en route to this week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bali and the East Asia Summit in Brunei, where Obama will no longer be able to press his signature trade pact or use personal diplomacy to support allies concerned at China’s assertive maritime expansion. Since 2011, China has consolidated its position as the largest trade partner with most Asian countries and its direct investments in the region are surging, albeit from a much lower base than Europe, Japan and the United States. Smaller countries such as Laos and Cambodia have been drawn so strongly into China’s economic orbit that they have been called “client states” of Beijing, supporting its stance in regional disputes.”

    It’s embarrassing that domestic issues have debilitated our government to the point that our leaders can no longer focus on foreign affairs that deserve attention. A long-planned trip to four Asian nations and two regional summits cancelled because of a government shutdown? Really? America needs to pick it up.

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