Unthinkable: If America walked away from Asia

(From the National Interest)

By Harry J. Kazianis

China’s ‘rise’ in Asia is creating considerable tension with Washington and its allies. There are disputes in the East and South China Seas, heated rhetoric over freedom of navigation operations, economic competition, a growing ‘access’ challenge pitting Chinese A2/AD vs. American Air-Sea Battle/JAM-GC—the laundry list these days seems almost endless.

USS Ronald Reagan sailing near Japan

USS Ronald Reagan sailing near Japan

So what should America do about it? One idea, boldly put forward by the talented John Glaser in a recent piece in these very pages, is to “abandon our strategy of primacy” and that “the United States can relinquish its outsized hegemonic role in East Asia without damaging its core interests.”

He explains:

“China threatens the United States only insofar as America insists on being the dominant power in China’s backyard, a policy that actually contributes very little to U.S. security. If we abandon our strategy of primacy, the risk of a clash will shrink away. If we try to contain China’s rise, on the other hand, these predictions of doom may prove right.”

Glaser continues on:

“The current approach to China boils down to a kind of measured containment. It manifests in essentially in three ways:

1) maintaining and strengthening U.S. “treaty alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand,” which “are the fulcrum for our strategic turn to the Asia-Pacific”;

2) increasing overall U.S. military presence in the region to develop “a geographically dispersed, politically sustainable force posture in the region”; and

3) further integrating U.S. economic engagement in the region in a way thatmarginalizes, and in some cases excludes, China.”

After reading this I had a very simple rhetorical question: Why is America doing these three things in the first place? A short list (and not even a comprehensive one), for your reading pleasure below, makes this obvious:

– With double digit budget increases almost every year for the last twenty years, China is building a military that by many people’s estimate is focused at defeating America in combat.

– Seizing Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines after backing away from a U.S.-brokered agreement to deescalate tensions.

– Placing oil rigs in Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone—now on multiple occasions.

– Time and time again, effectively declaring the South China Sea its own territory—a body of water that is among the world’s most important in terms of trade transiting its space (over $5 trillion worth, with over $1 trillion being U.S. goods).

– Constantly testing Japanese administrative control of various islands in the East China Sea—islands under Tokyo’s administrative control since the early 1970s—and nearly sparking multiple fatal collisions in the air.

– Declaring an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea.

– And now creating fake islands in the South China Sea—islands Beijing could use to effectively enforce its sovereignty claims. Read more



Categories: Asia Times News & Features, China, Japan, Southeast Asia

Tags: , , , , , , ,