U.S. President Obama recently nominated Democrat John Kerry for Secretary of State, also sending Harvard professor Joseph Nye as an emissary to Japan.
From the marked contrast between the collective strengths of the U.S. and China in the Asia-Pacific region, there has emerged a new and constantly shifting landscape. International zones within the region, including international waters, airspace, outer space, the Internet and even the electromagnetic spectrum will be an arena for competition and cooperation between the two powers. Now, the CCP’s (Chinese Communist Party) active development of its military capabilities has already made the U.S. and the region’s major players aware of the coming competition for rights over the control and use of these areas.
The U.S. is essentially pursuing both peaceful and military avenues in response to these new circumstances. From a military and strategic standpoint, the U.S. has not only positioned air and naval forces in Asia and the Pacific, but has also begun to develop a strategic alliance with the U.S., Japan, India and Australia as its primary axis. At the same time, it has officially invited India to participate in joint development efforts for the F-35 stealth fighter. Apart from this, the U.S. has also taken positive steps, including the creation of mechanisms for national security-related and strategic dialogue between the U.S. and China, the development of frameworks for cooperation on regional security and a strong emphasis on the costs of military conflict in Asia and the Pacific. It has also encouraged nations bordering China to develop bilateral or multilateral mechanisms for mutual trust between their militaries and that of the CCP. These policies show the strategic thoughts and concrete actions of the U.S. in responding to these new circumstances in Asia, and are both meticulous and flexible.
Facing the intensification of regional disputes over the sovereignty of several islands, increasing numbers of U.S. strategists believe that it should move forward with its “strategic rebalance to Asia”; however, the U.S. cannot allow its Asian allies to use treaties and security pledges with the U.S. to do as they will and pull the U.S. into a military confrontation with China. “We have to be careful that we don’t feed that dynamic,” said former U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy, speaking of the Philippines mistakenly viewing U.S. support as an opportunity to more aggressively state its claims.
Also, at a forum hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank, many strategists believed that the U.S. has increased cooperation with its Asian allies, but has caused these nations to misunderstand America’s intentions to support them; they have subsequently become more boldly expansionist and imagine that the U.S. will support them militarily, forming a dangerous trend. As a result, the U.S. must clearly communicate that it politically supports a peaceful solution to disputes in Asia and the Pacific, but will not choose sides in issues of sovereignty. At the same time, the U.S. must convey that its security pledges with Asian states are conditional, rather than a blank check.
President Ma pointed out that Taiwan currently wishes to maintain a relationship of peaceful development with the mainland, preserve amicable cooperation with Japan and consolidate its closely-knit security and economic partnership with the U.S. Aside from this, President Ma emphasized that Taiwan’s “East China Sea Peace Initiative” echoes mainstream opinions in U.S. strategic circles and Taiwan’s view that the U.S. security promise of a “strategic rebalance to Asia” is not a blank check to be used freely, so as to make the Republic of China into a force for peace and stability in the region.
The author is an adviser for the National Policy Foundation’s National Security Division.