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Andrew O’Neil

Despite major changes in the security environment in Northeast Asia, including North Korea’s emergence as a nuclear-armed power, the US–Republic of Korea (ROK) alliance has been characterised by several consistent themes since its inception. The most prominent of these has been a tension between entrapment and abandonment fears, and a misalignment between close military-operational ties and uneven political strategic relations. While the alliance has experienced a significant ‘thickening’ of its institutional fabric, it nevertheless remains susceptible to strains regarding the inter-Korean focus of governments in Seoul and the aversion among US policymakers to any accommodation of Pyongyang. Looking ahead, these dynamics will continue to shape the US–ROK alliance as it confronts a new, and increasingly unpredictable, era of strategic uncertainty on the Korean peninsula.

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Harsh V. Pant

This chapter examines the evolution of American policies towards India and Pakistan since the end of the Cold War. It argues that structural convergence has led to a strengthening of U.S.–India ties while U.S.–Pakistan relations have come under severe strain due to Pakistan’s dubious role in fighting terrorism. This chapter starts by looking at Indian Prime Minister’s visit to the U.S. in June 2017, his first under the Donald Trump presidency. Subsequently, it maps out the factors that have led to a strengthening of U.S.–India relations. Finally, it examines the challenges confronting America’s ties with Pakistan.

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Kerry Brown and Meghan Iverson

China and the US are the contemporary world's two greatest powers. And yet there is a lack of consensus about how far they are able to work with each other, accommodating China's new pre-eminence and the US' need to adapt and change its posture particularly in the Asia Pacific region. In terms of hard power, for the foreseeable future the US will still be overwhelmingly preeminent. And yet in other areas, we are already seeing changes to the role it plays, particularly under Donald Trump, and the ways in which it is trying to craft a new narrative for the region with, and around, China. This chapter attempts to describe how this new narrative might unfold.

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Andrew T.H. Tan

The January 2016 elections in Taiwan, which was won by the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), have diminished the prospects for reunification with China. This, together with China’s growing economic and military power, as well as rising confidence and nationalism, have meant that the prospects of China using force to resolve the Taiwan problem has increased. However, any resort to coercion or military force by China would carry grave risks for it, as despite isolationist sentiments that underpinned Trump’s election, there is a high probability that the US would react to any attempt to coerce or attack Taiwan, given the anti-China mood in the US Congress. This could lead to uncertain consequences, such as an uncontrolled escalation into all-out conflict between the two great powers. It is thus in China’s interest to pursue peaceful means towards reunification and avoid any precipitate action that could upset the current order. It is also in the United States’ interest to remain actively engaged in the region in order to maintain stability.

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Yee-Kuang Heng

This chapter argues that what appear to be an insurmountable and growing set of constraints may in fact, in some cases, be an opportunity for Washington to extend its influence and further consolidate security relationships in the region. The US defence posture in Asia is characterized by a set of so-called “hub and spoke” relationships and networks with formal treaty allies (Japan, Republic of Korea, Thailand, Australia, the Philippines). In addition, there are also long-standing quasi-allies (notably Singapore), or occasional partner states such as Malaysia and India that either host ad hoc US military deployments or participate in exercises together. This chapter evaluates the constraints and opportunities for the US defence posture through these three sets of US partners – formal treaty allies, quasi-allies and more ad hoc partners.

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Axel Berkofsky

Where is the US–Japan security alliance headed? With the US run by President Donald Trump, this is – at least so it seems for now – not always easy to predict in view of Trump’s frequent pathological mood swings and contradictory policies. For now, at least, Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe get along just fine and provide each other with what they want from each other – US guarantees to protect the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea in return for Abe not criticizing Trump’s ill-fated isolationist policies in the Asia-Pacific announced by tweets in the early hours of the day. Day-to-day US–Japan alliance management business in the meantime goes on undeterred and helped by recent development and changes on Japan’s security and defence policy agenda, Washington and Tokyo are on a very well-defined path to increase alliance interoperability, aimed at among others transforming the bilateral alliance from asymmetrical to more symmetrical and equal. The revised version of the US–Japan defence guidelines adopted in 2015 in particular are a fundamental step towards increasing Japanese military contributions in the case of a regional contingency with US involvement. The details, challenges and prospects of increased and deeper US–Japan military cooperation in the context of their bilateral alliance will be analysed in this chapter.

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Mark Beeson and Jeffrey D. Wilson

The largely unexpected election of Donald Trump has given trade relations an unaccustomed prominence in policy debates. No development highlighted this more dramatically than the rise, and then abrupt demise, of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP saga highlights the growing importance of ‘geoeconomics’ – the application of economic instruments to advance geopolitical ends – in the external policies of major powers. This chapter examines the geoeconomic logic of the TPP, locating its origins in the Obama administration’s desire to shape the form of Asian economic regionalism. However, the it was not wholly well-received either in the U.S. or the region. Asian governments launched competing trade initiatives to the TPP, and domestic opponents applied pressure that ultimately led to its abandonment by the Trump administration. The demise of the TPP may accelerate prospects for an American-to-Chinese leadership transition in Asia, by providing a space in which new Chinese regionalism initiatives can gain traction.

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Handbook on the United States in Asia

Managing Hegemonic Decline, Retaining Influence in the Trump Era

Edited by Andrew T.H. Tan

The centre of gravity in today’s global economy arguably now resides in Asia. As a result of this, the maintenance of geopolitical and economic security in Asia has become pivotal to global stability. This indispensable Handbook examines the crucial and multifaceted role of the United States as a force in the region that has been, and continues to be, necessary for the continuation of Asian prosperity.
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Andrew T.H. Tan

The centre of the global economy today resides in Asia, not Europe or North America. According to the International Monetary Fund, Asia in 2016 accounted for 40 per cent of global GDP (Lagarde 2016). As Asia also accounts for much of global economic growth in recent years, developments in the region are therefore central to the global economic outlook and for formulating policies around the world (IMF 2015: 1). Asia’s remarkable economic rise is led by China, which had a GDP of around US$11.4 trillion in 2016, making it the second largest economy in the world after the United States. Despite economic stagnation since the 1990s, Japan in 2016 remained the world’s third largest economy, with a GDP of about US$4.7 trillion. Other significant economic powerhouses in Asia include India and South Korea (IMF 2016). The trend is quite clear: Asia is on course to regain the dominant economic position it held before the Industrial Revolution in Europe (ADB n.d.). The maintenance of stability in Asia has therefore become pivotal to global stability; conversely, regional instability will have deep, global consequences. Since the surrender of Japan in 1945 at the end of the Second World War, the United States has been deeply engaged in Asia, and has maintained a form of hegemony over the region, though its failure in the Vietnam War demonstrated the limits of its dominance. The US role has been mostly seen as positive, at least to its allies and the non-communist states in Asia, as it has, through its hubs and spokes system of alliances and military presence, exercised sufficient power to maintain general stability in the region. In turn, this has facilitated Asia’s economic rise (Beeson 2011).

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Jingdong Yuan

The rise of China and Beijing’s assertive foreign policy under Xi Jinping are fundamentally changing the geopolitical landscape in the Indo-Pacific. Specifically, a more confident China is perceived in Washington as destined to challenge U.S. supremacy in the region for the past seven decades. The Thucydides Trap, as the emerging rivalry between a rising power and the reigning one, carries significant risks in that failure of conflict management could well result in major clashes between the two countries and, as a consequence, place regional peace and stability in peril. This chapter reviews a range of areas where Sino–U.S. rivalry exists and analyses the likely scenarios and policy options for both Washington and Beijing. It argues that U.S.–China rivalry can take a number of different forms, not all of which would end in military confrontation, with the exception of Western Pacific where the two militaries are engaging in growing overlapping and close-range encounters. Both powers recognize the stakes and are making efforts to manage their differences and minimize the impact of conflicts.