While President Obama correctly identified Asia as being the most important region in the world for the future of the United States, and his Asia Pivot (or ‘rebalancing’) is meant to shore up its dominant position in Asia, there are significant challenges in doing so. Domestically, there has been rising isolationism, a backlash against free trade, calls for ‘restraint’ in US foreign engagements and the growing pressure on the US budget as a result of its economic problems. Externally, there is a long list of security issues and challenges in the region, including and especially the rise of China. While the new Trump administration’s foreign policy towards Asia remains unclear, the loss of the United States’ position in Asia would have very serious long-term political, strategic and economic consequences for it as well as for the stability of the region.
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Andrew T.H. Tan
This chapter considers America’s strategic posture in the Indian Ocean. The discussion first reviews how this has changed over time and then considers what place the region now plays in the United States’ overall global strategy. The chapter then lists the interests Washington pursues in the Indian Ocean before it then examines three key strategic challenges America has faced recently in the region – piracy off Somalia, the War on Terror (especially in Afghanistan), and the increasing Chinese presence in the region – before it details Washington’s responses to these. How America expects to cooperate with two key ‘like-minded’ regional states, India and Australia, is also considered, along with a detailed discussion of America’s key regional base at Diego Garcia. The chapter finishes with a prediction that the region is only likely to become more important in the United States’ strategic calculations.
Since the end of the Second World War, the United States have played a major role in Asia. Measured against American participation in Asian affairs before 1939, Washington's post-war regional engagement has been nothing short of breathtaking. From limited involvement, the US transformed itself into a major player, if not the major player, on the Asian scene. This chapter seeks, therefore, to chart the development of American diplomacy in Asia since 1945 and explain how the US went about building its web of regional relationships and then maintaining them. Furthermore, it aims briefly to discuss the prospects for these regional relationships. In this context, it provides a broad introduction to those chapters that specifically explore Washington's bilateral relations with the principal regional actors.
This chapter examines the US role in Asia in a historical context and explains how it has evolved over the years as a result of the geostrategic changes taking place at regional and international level. As no foreign and defence policy is ever formulated in a vacuum, America’s regional role has been significantly shaped by the ever-changing strategic context and by the way in which American policymakers have perceived political change globally and regionally. It is against this backdrop that the current challenges to US pre-eminence in Asia should also be assessed. With the rise of Chinese economic and military power in the region and with uncertainties surrounding Washington’s ability and resolve to maintain a strong presence in Asia, the future of US power does not seem to be as assured as it was only a decade ago.
Andrew T.H. Tan
Terrorism in Asia, particularly in South and Southeast Asia, remains a serious and growing security challenge, especially given the rise of the Islamic States since 2014. The linkages with global terrorism and the severity of the terrorism challenge means that the United States remains an indispensable security and political partner for the affected countries, particularly Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Comprehensive approaches to counter-terrorism, however, require enormous capacity and resources, as well as a long-term perspective. This, and the fact that the terrorism challenge is a long-term challenge in these countries, mean that the role of the United States will also be enduring, sustained through continued counterterrorism cooperation. An important strategic benefit of the United States’ involvement in regional counterterrorism is that this also increases its security and political roles in both South and Southeast Asia. In turn, this strengthens and sustains the United States’ position in Asia.
Sean Kenji Starrs
U.S. economic engagement in Asia has been one of the core drivers of the development of globalization since the late twentieth century, and we cannot adequately understand one without the other, especially concerning the rise of China. We also need to move beyond national accounts such as GDP and reconceptualize how to investigate the dynamics of Asian–U.S. economic relations given the globalization of production, foreign ownership, and the uneven distribution of global value chains. After arguing why this is so, this chapter will present original empirical research to demonstrate the nature of U.S. engagement in Asia, especially China, and how the United States continues to benefit disproportionately from these economic relationships – contrary to popular perceptions of hegemonic and industrial American decline. The chapter concludes with certain implications from this analysis in regard to the populist upsurge in 2016 that elected Donald Trump as U.S. president, and possible paths forward.
This chapter explores the way in which the Trump administration has responded to the ongoing Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) and examines the implications of this response for Australia. It argues that, although it is too early to determine the longevity of the Trump administration or the long-term coherency of its apparent disdain for military-technical investment as means of improving capability and furthering international partnerships, there is considerable wisdom and potential in any Australian effort to maintain its robust military relations with the United States while simultaneously enhancing its level of techno-strategic autonomy. In terms of RMA-theorising and adaptation, this would concrete Australia’s position as a ‘middle power’ and provide a valuable model for others to emulate as the baton of global technological leadership is passed onto China.
Paul J. Smith
The ascendancy of Donald J. Trump to the office of President of the United States has led many to speculate about the future of U.S. strategy toward the Asia-Pacific. As a candidate, Mr. Trump made a number of statements suggesting a dramatic break with past policies. However, upon assuming office and notwithstanding his immediate rejection of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, Trump appeared to favor a more traditional and internationalist approach to foreign policy, particularly with his appointments of James Mattis and Rex Tillerson to head the Defense and State Departments respectively. However, it would be a mistake to assume that President Trump’s attitude toward international relations will automatically align with that of previous administrations. As an unconventional political leader, Trump will likely bring both continuities and discontinuities in his approach to the Asia-Pacific and to the alliance relationships that the U.S. has maintained for more than six decades.
Washington faces a trilemma in its management of relations with North Korea. From the perspective of U.S. policymakers, North Korea is a deterrence challenge, a nuclear proliferation threat, and a challenge to regional stability in Northeast Asia. The problem is that no set of policies can address all three frames; each introduces different policy priorities and favors different tools of statecraft to pursue them. This is why all three threat types endure without resolution, and rivalry conditions between the United States and North Korea remain frustratingly durable: The complexity of the situation presents hard choices, which successive U.S. presidents have preferred to avoid, even though doing so has allowed the problem to grow worse and more disadvantageous for the United States over time.
S.R. Joey Long
This chapter argues that Singapore serves as one of those strategic partners that the United States engages to advance its objectives in the Asia-Pacific. The web of security agreements that the United States maintains with Singapore allows the former to occupy a strategic geopolitical space in Asia and remain militarily involved in the region. Washington has, moreover, benefitted from Singapore’s support for its positions on international trade. The Singaporean state, on the other hand, views America as a benign actor that advances its economic and security interests. Singapore is accordingly contented to see the preponderance of American power prevail in the Asia-Pacific. Insofar as both states view their interactions and engagements to be mutually beneficial, each will find the other’s capacity to further its own economic and security objectives to likewise be in its interest.