Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Shifting Winds in US Asian Policy?

Is a change in the air in US Asia policy? Since the Bush Administration there's been a perception of drift out here, possibly because the destructive, pointless, stupid wars in the Middle East have loomed so large on the global stage. But small things augur the growing importance of Asia in the Obama Administration's foreign policy. This week Sec of State Clinton spoke in Hawaii on, of all things, the importance of Taiwan:
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told an audience last week at the East-West Centre in Honolulu - on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum meetings - that while Washington would remain committed to the one-China policy and stability across the Taiwan Strait, it would also stick to a "strong relationship with Taiwan ... an important security and economic partner".

Her comment, ahead of the Apec leaders' summit, reflected US determination to increase its presence in Asia now that it views the rise of the mainland as a big threat, Taiwanese analysts said yesterday.


Analysts said Washington's intention to constrain Beijing can be best exemplified by US President Barack Obama's apparent sidelining of mainland China over plans for a Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The TPP appears to be an attempt to counter the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere that China seems intent on building. The TPP began as an agreement between four smaller Pacific nations and was later taken up by the Obama Administration as a way to build a grand free trade area for the entire Pacific.

Additionally, the Pentagon is setting up an office apparently aimed at war concepts for China. According to the Taipei Times, the new tri-service Air-Sea Battle Office (ASBO) "is directed mostly at the Western Pacific and its principal actor, China." Obama has also promised a greater US military presence in Australia. Slowly the wheel turns....

Taiwan is an important flash point, but the South China Sea, where China seems to be completely out of hand, is becoming increasingly ominous. A reminder of what renewed US commitment to the area will mean occurred this week. This week China moved its claim even closer to the Philippines as it demanded Manila cease permitting oil exploration just 80 kms off the coast of the province of Palawan and over 800 kms from the China coast. I think those analysts who were wondering exactly what China meant by the famous "cow's tongue" map under which it appeared to claim the entire South China Sea are getting their answer: China means everything, even stuff not included on the map. Recall that the US and Philippines have a mutual defense treaty and Manila basically has no navy to speak of. Whereas with Taiwan the US can always retreat into ambiguity, the situation with respect to the Philippines is quite clear: if hostilities commence, the US must intervene.
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richard said...

it would be actually interesting to know who we mean by saying 'china'. there is surely many power centers and groups - is it the PLA in general, just the navy, some civilian hawks, SEOs interested in resources?
is the army acting so for budgetary reasons, or ahead of the coming power change?

yet, it actually does not matter, since neighbors perceive whole china as a hostile and aggressive neighbor

Michael Turton said...

Yes for those of us on the outside, you can treat China as a black box. The difference between the groups is a struggle about tactics and resources, not about ultimate ends.

Anonymous said...

"The difference between the groups is a struggle about tactics and resources, not about ultimate ends."

What sorts of ends?

paul said...

maybe countries like the philippines should pay taiwan some - much deserved - respect. like when manila sent those taiwanese citizens residing in philippines who were accused of crimes by beijing over to china without their family's knowledge and over taiwan govt's disapproval. if china ever got their hands on taiwan, she pretty much will proclaim all of asian/pacific territory from tip of japan to tip of philippines to tip of guam all to herself lol!!

support taiwan, all you asian countries!! because you will need her if you going to confront china!!

Nathan W. Novak (李漢聲) said...

Mr. T.:

I agree with you that Bush's war in Iraq and Obama's war in Libya have been, as you say, stupid, but can we really put Afghanistan at the same level? Those that directly attacked the United States on 9/11 were based in Afghanistan, not China. Although I'm no fan of the PRC's political system and its international orientation and tendencies, as are you, I fail to see how Afghanistan and, say, Libya, are equally stupid. Perhaps I've missed something here?

Many thanks,


And p.s., I'd also argue that strikes (esp. UAV strikes) into Pakistan are extremely costly politically for the United States. Where does this fit in with your calculus? Thanks again.~

M said...

No mention of the arrest of a Taiwanese diplomat in the US?

Michael Turton said...

Sorry M. Waiting to see if a back story emerges. Otherwise I have nothing to add to it. I don't like blogging when I can't add something of value to the story, even a single comment. I do it sometimes, but I don't like to.


Anonymous said...

Seems to be more and more in the news about the US shift to countering China.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Michael, for re-posting the notice about Hsiao Bi-khim's talk at Columbia. I was there tonight, and she was great.

--Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

View on the international actions conducted by the US and how it evolves indicates that the US has VERY big internal problems and is using international policy, action, perceptions to shift focus on international issues. This is a common practice throughout history, and is something that probably US citizens want to keep a close eye on.


Anonymous said...

America is the worlds number one arms industry.

WMD is her best profit maker.

War follows where Uncle Sam goes.

Now Washington is going to bomb China like it did with Beijing's embassy in the former Yugoslavia .

What a good way to make all those debts disappear while also reaping massive profits for the US arms industry!

The genius behind all this is that China will be retaliating against multiple targets like Sydney, Tokyo, Manila, Naha etc.... all outside the USA!

This is why America is the number one super power remaining.

Broken Arrow