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CHAPTER TWO


U.S. Security Interests


Deterring Conflict by Maintaining an Effective Security Presence
Expanding U.S. Access to Asia Pacific Economies, and Supporting Their Growth
Preventing the Domination of the Region by Any Hostile Power
Preventing the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Systems for Delivering Them
Promoting the Growth of Democratic Political Systems


With the exception of the Korean flashpoint, none of the trends that presently define the region is necessarily threatening to U.S. interests. They do, however, indicate that a new security order is emerging to replace the Cold War system--an order that reflects the rising economic power and political aspirations of the major regional powers. South Korea and the ASEAN countries--and perhaps China as well--are examples of former Third World nations that are well on the way to joining the market democracies. Meanwhile, Japan, which has long been numbered among the ranks of market democracies but has refrained from exercising leadership, is making an effort to come to terms with the responsibilities of its position.

The challenge for the United States is to maintain a stabilizing presence in the region during this time of transition, and thereby to secure its interests for the future. Because of its past actions, its high standing within the region, and its national power, the U.S. remains well-positioned to meet this challenge.

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Deterring Conflict by Maintaining an Effective Security Presence

An effective U.S. security presence remains key to maintaining the peace in Asia. A credible U.S. commitment to the security of both Korea and Japan helps to deter conflict on the Korean Peninsula. A perceived diminution of the U.S. military commitment to Japan, including the nuclear umbrella, would encourage a more independent Japanese military, which would cause alarm throughout the region, given vivid memories of Japan's brutal aggression earlier in this century. The U.S. military presence has helped to make the ASEAN region peaceful, and regional actors expect that the U.S. will remain engaged for the foreseeable future.

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Expanding U.S. Access to Asia Pacific Economies, and Supporting Their Growth

The United States has a vital national interest in maintaining access to the region's vibrant economic systems. The Asia Pacific region is emerging as the center of global economic activity, and the economic welfare of the United States is deeply intertwined with the economic future of this region. Continuing strong economic growth in this region serves U.S. interests by providing expanding markets for U.S. exports, new investment opportunities and sources of capital, and a stimulus to the development of new technologies and marketing strategies. More important, such access is also a positive indicator of a long-term U.S. commitment to expanding its regional presence.

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Preventing the Domination
of the Region by Any
Hostile Power

The rise of a hostile hegemon in Asia would threaten vital U.S. interests. If China, India, Japan, or Russia were to make such an effort, the effect would, at a minimum, be destabilizing. It would also threaten conflict, potentially degrade the material quality of U.S. life, and undermine the ability of the U.S. to maintain its position globally.

Although there is no possibility that any hostile power will achieve hegemony in the region in the next few years, the situation in the future might be different. Whether the U.S. is challenged by a hostile or potentially hostile power at some point in the future depends, in part, upon U.S. actions in the next four to five years.

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Preventing the Proliferation
of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Systems for Delivering Them

At present, the major challenge to U.S. interests and regional stability resides in the Korean Peninsula, where North Korea now faces the need either to fish or cut bait with respect to its nuclear program. A North Korean nuclear capability would raise the stakes of war on the peninsula, and increase the pressure on Japan and South Korea to mount nuclear weapons programs of their own. Either of these events would threaten the global interests of the United States, and would probably destroy the Nonproliferation Treaty on the eve of its scheduled 1995 re-evaluation and possible renewal.

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Promoting the Growth of Democratic Political Systems

It is in the long-term U.S. interest to promote the development of governments that share its democratic values and market-oriented approach to economics. The nations of the region are only beginning to come to terms with the issues that divided them in the past, and a shared democratic orientation and commitment to market economies would promote their willingness to take measures to offset years of mistrust. Also, such a commitment can help to establish a basis for restructuring civilian/military relations, which continues, despite progress, to be a problem in many Asian states.

Asia Pacific Defense Expenditures By Country Chart


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