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The health and security of the core of market democracies are inseparable from those of the Asia-Pacific region. Despite the present economic difficulties, early in the 21st century the center of global economic activity may shift to this region. Japan already is the world's second largest economy and a leading source of the investment capital and managerial expertise that sustain the global economy. Since the late 1980s, China's economy has grown at an average rate of 10 percent a year and may become the world's largest economy as well as its largest market. Strategically, the region's population, resources, and command of sealanes make close ties a vital core interest. The United States and Europe cannot sustain themselves without access to the Asia-Pacific region, just as the Asia-Pacific states cannot sustain themselves without access to the United States and Europe.

Most states in this region are undergoing transition. Although almost all accept the economic values of the core, some regional leaders continue to resist, in certain cases even reject, its democratic political values. Of all the transition states, China is the most significant, because it will eventually develop a degree of comprehensive national strength sufficient to challenge the values of the core, should it choose to do so. Present signs are encouraging, but there is no certainty that these transition states will embrace core values and norms.

As a leader in the Asia-Pacific region, the United States has a fundamental interest in shaping an environment in which the states of the region will be encouraged to complete their respective transitions and become firmly integrated into the core. If the United States and its partners fail to meet this challenge, or if the Asia-Pacific region becomes unstable, core interests will be damaged.

Marines in Okinawa

U.S. Interests

Japan as Equal Partner

The health of the core could be greatly enhanced if Japan were to play a political and security role more appropriate than at present to both its economic strength and regional and global interests. More important, Japan could take greater responsibility for the defense of the core by providing support and a staging area and by undertaking some defensive operations in the event of crisis or conflict in Northeast Asia.

Concerns raised by memories of Japan's imperial past can be offset if Japanese activities develop within the framework of a strong alliance with the United States and firm commitment to core norms and values. Tokyo's willingness to assume the responsibilities of an active partner, particularly greater responsibility for its own defense, would substantially increase support for the alliance within the United States, while also contributing to Japan's standing as a core state.

Relations among members of the core are much less developed in Asia than in Europe, where history and strategic necessity mandated and facilitated cooperation and integration. Core solidarity and cohesion would benefit were the cooperation, integration, and trust between Washington and Tokyo to move closer to the levels that exist between the United States and its European allies.

Korean Reunification

Because the interests of three core states--the United States, Japan, and the Republic of Korea (ROK)--and two key transition states--China and Russia--intersect on the Korean peninsula, developments there have a significant effect on efforts to expand and defend the core.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is a rogue state that may be failing. Although its nuclear weapons program now appears to be under control, the possibility of chemical and biological programs, a potential missile threat, and the constant threat of regime instability or collapse remain causes for concern. Another possibility is that not only an asymmetric military threat but also a major conventional conflict would disrupt the stability of the region and threaten the economic gains achieved by the other regional powers.

Continued deterrence is obviously essential, but in the longer term the core states also have an interest in establishing a way that the peninsula can be unified gradually and incrementally. The sudden collapse of North Korea would produce great economic and political disruption, with conflict as a possible byproduct. It is therefore in everyone's interest, including China and Russia, to minimize this likelihood. Cooperation, or at least coordination of policies and actions, would enhance core solidarity and simultaneously present an opportunity to cement relations among the core and provide the two transition states with the greatest capacity to affect core interests.

China as Full Member of the Core

Within the next 20 years or so, China has the greatest potential to challenge U.S. and core interests in the region by economic, political, and military means. Its potential for such a challenge already exceeds that of Russia. The ultimate direction of China's transition is therefore very important.

The task for the United States is to use its formidable array of economic, political, and military instruments to persuade Beijing that cooperative and friendly relations are more in its interest than overt competition and conflict. Washington and the other members of the core, especially Japan, are challenged to persuade China that its interests are best served by organizing its international activities to comport with core values and norms.

Enhanced Ties with ASEAN

The nine states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are primarily transition states whose integration into the core is essential for continued regional stability. Taken together, ASEAN economies are among the most dynamic in the world. Annual trade by the organization's members with core states amounts to $286 billion and continues to grow. In the future, the importance of such trade with the core can only increase.

These nine transition states are also of crucial geostrategic importance for three reasons. First, the ASEAN states adjoin or straddle sea lines of communication (SLOC) with Northeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, and the Persian Gulf. Trade and the need to respond to crises require that the SLOC be readily accessible to core states. The victory over Iraq in the Persian Gulf War was facilitated by the ability to stage through Southeast Asia.

Second, Southeast Asia has long had an ambiguous relationship with China. Traditionally, Chinese strategists have defined Southeast Asia as a strategic buffer zone in which China should be the dominant external influence. Political leaders in the subregion have been sensitive to this demand, often accommodating China when the absence of a countervailing power has enabled Beijing to press its preferences credibly. Core relations with ASEAN, therefore, bear directly on both its present health and security and its ability to expand and consolidate.

Finally, the states in ASEAN are rapidly building modern military establishments. Most have moved beyond the need to deal with internal threats and are building modern forces better suited to reinforcing their respective quests for the new international interests that attend economic prosperity. The health and security of the core would be enhanced were these new capabilities exercised within the framework of core values and norms.

Current Trends

Japan's Growing Role

The issue of Japan's role as a "normal state" has occupied its political leadership for more than a decade. Although the bursting of the "Bubble Economy" in the early 1990s took the edge off the willingness of various elites to grapple with new regional and global roles, this theme remains visible in present political discourse.

The April 1996 Joint Declaration on Security focused the U.S.-Japanese alliance away from the defense of Japan and toward cooperation in maintaining regional security. Subsequent revision of the Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation, which established principles for cooperation in crisis situations, can be seen as a significant step toward a greater political and military role for Tokyo in regional affairs. Its regional role and influence will almost certainly continue to grow, but a combination of internal and external factors may cause change to come extremely slowly.

Of the two, internal factors are more important. Since the end of the Cold War, economic difficulties, official corruption, doubts (now largely compensated for) about U.S. constancy, and a perception of the potential challenge of rising Chinese power have combined to force a change in the content and structure of Japanese politics.

In 1996, the Socialist Party formed a coalition government under Prime Minister Murayama, their first accession to power since 1948. But the price of a majority vote was renunciation of the party's long-held opposition to the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty and acceptance of the legitimacy of the Japanese Defense Forces. In 1997, the Socialists were relegated to a secondary role in the coalition, and their influence seems likely to decline further in the future.

Over the next few years, this evolution toward a new political center in Japan will continue, and issues related to Japan's role in the U.S.-Japan alliance will be an essential issue. Indeed, issues of "role in the world" will probably emerge as a key element of the debate. If, as seems likely, present domestic political trends continue and if successive Japanese governments can demonstrate that the expanded alliance truly increases Japan's security, the strength of domestic political leaders who support an expanded role for Japan in regional political and security affairs will grow.

External constraints on Japan's role in core security, on the other hand, may diminish. At present, mindful as they are of Japan's imperial past as well as Tokyo's consistent refusal to deal with it, regional states (especially China and the ROK) remain wary of any increase in Japan's military or security roles.

This opposition, however, is by no means solid or united. Protestations notwithstanding, both Beijing and Seoul understand that even an expanded alliance serves their interests by enhancing stability and by keeping Japan firmly tied to core values and norms. The states of Southeast Asia are concerned less about a more active Japan than about the emergence of Chinese military power, and, accordingly, they see the alliance as a means of countering Beijing's regional influence. Despite the braking effect of historical memory, the trend points toward acceptance of a more active engagement by Japan in the security affairs of the region.

Instability on the Korean Peninsula

The DPRK is a rogue state that is evidently also failing. This combination means that conflict is a constant possibility and that the peninsula may be entering a period in which the risk of an unintended war exists due to a collapse in the North. If deterrence continues to work, however, the decline of the DPRK points to decreased likelihood of a Korean conflict. The challenge for the United States is to use deterrence as a shield under which other countervailing trends can develop.

Several external and internal factors support this assessment. The four major powers of the region share vital interests:

The policies of those four powers appear to work, if only coincidentally, to limit the likelihood of conflict. For example, Russia has served notice that it will no longer aid Pyongyang in the event of conflict. China has used its influence to help control North Korea's nuclear weapons program and has encouraged the United States to approach Pyongyang diplomatically. China also provides to North Korea a reported one-third of its small foreign aid, thus helping to reduce the possibility of conflict produced by the "spasm reflex" of a dying regime. In December 1997, the Four Party Discussions--among the two Koreas, China, and the United States--were convened, with a second session planned for spring 1998. Insofar as external powers can consciously influence developments in Korea, that influence is being directed toward reducing the likelihood of conflict.

North Korean weakness also points to reduced possibility of conflict. In the mid-1970s, the balance of economic strength shifted permanently to the South. The 1996 increase in South Korean GDP--amounting to U.S. $27 billion--exceeded the total of North Korea's economic output by some $21 billion. Although North Korea remains able to wreak great havoc on its adversary to the south, the combination of South Korean strength and U.S. support means that Pyongyang cannot reunify the peninsula on its own terms militarily.

Similarly, North Korea's economy remains in a state of collapse. The juche regime in Pyongyang is incapable of providing even bare essentials for its population. The extent of North Korea's economic decline is striking. The loss of major power sponsors, along with the structural deficiencies of its command economy and a series of natural disasters, has led to economic retraction over the past seven years, with no end in sight. In nearly every area of competition, with the exception of the military, South Korea, with strong backing from America, has emerged as the clear winner in this rivalry.

While the United States and the ROK should continue to try to capitalize on the potential opportunities afforded by Pyongyang's willingness to engage diplomatically, they must never lose sight of the fundamental requirement to maintain forces sufficiently powerful to deter and, should deterrence fail, to fight and win. North Korea still poses a significant military threat, ranging from a last gasp attempt to reunify the peninsula via military conquest, through more limited aggression intended for political gain or diplomatic leverage, to a purely punitive assault launched with the sole purpose of inflicting maximum damage on the South as North Korea goes down fighting.

Security Implications of the Asian Economic Crisis

The Asian economic crisis will generate a number of potential problems for U.S. security relations with the nations of the region. For example, demonstrations in Indonesia and Malaysia raise the specter of political instability. Also, unanticipated shortfalls in revenue may complicate or even prevent the efforts of regional allies and friends to fulfill prior commitments to purchase arms, participate in planned exercises, and, of greatest importance, continue to provide the full measure of expected support for U.S. military forces. Third, the crisis has already caused some diminution of U.S. status and prestige, because certain centers of political opinion with different regional nations view the United States as a major cause of the crisis. In any case, owing to its close identification with the International Monetary Fund, Washington is viewed as the force behind the often unpopular measures advocated by the IMF.

Thus far, because of its nonconvertible currency and the fortunate fact that most of its investment capital is derived from foreign direct investment rather than loans, China has avoided the major negative effects of the crisis. However, all the conditions that prompted events elsewhere in Asia--a large number of nonperforming loans, cronyism, and the practice of basing economic decisions on political expediency--exist in China. If the reforms announced at the March national People's Congress are not fully successful, China too could encounter slowed rates of economic development and resultant political instability.

A challenge for U.S. policy will be to resist any temptation to react negatively to regional complaints and provide the political and economic support that will enable regional governments to persevere through the present difficulties, implement necessary reforms, and ultimately consolidate their positions within a more stable regional and global economic order. In other words, the crisis provides opportunities for shaping the regional environment in ways consistent with the economic values of the core.

Fluctuation in Sino-American Relations

China is a key transition state. Beijing already plays a defining role in regional affairs, and its influence will only increase. In 1992, after more than a decade of preparation, the Chinese began in earnest to modernize the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Although equipment modernization is proceeding slowly, the PLA is clearly on the path to greater modernity. Within two decades or so, China will have reached sufficient comprehensive national strength to mount a regional challenge to core values, should it choose to do so. Relations with the United States are thus a matter of vital interest to both Beijing and Washington.

Economic development is China's main national priority, and Beijing has slowly come to accept many core economic values. In February 1992, Deng Xiaoping's "Southern Journey" signaled acceptance of market mechanisms. After the 15th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in October 1997, President Jiang Zemin used his political strength to intensify efforts to complete reform by privatizing the 400 or so state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Although these comprise but 15 percent of the total, the need to subsidize inefficient SOEs had long imposed a major burden on China's fiscal resources. This recent emphasis on privatization suggests that the Chinese may be more willing to implement other reforms required for World Trade Organization (WTO) accession and then to observe the norms of the rule-based global trading system. The National People's Congress is likely to reinforce these trends in spring 1998. At the same time, if the Asian financial crisis weakens the Chinese economy, painful reforms (e.g., privatizing state-owned enterprises) could be slowed.

Despite Beijing's willingness to deal with core economic values, however, China's relations with the United States are not smooth. After the Tiananmen Square incident of June 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, long-repressed stresses in U.S.-Chinese relations surfaced; since then bilateral ties have had ups and downs. These respond to disagreements on a wide range of issues, including Taiwan, a growing trade deficit, proliferation of WMD, and human rights. These strains will continue, and U.S. ties with China could become increasingly competitive.

Beijing is extremely suspicious of Washington's long-range strategic intentions. Chinese leaders see U.S. support for Taiwan, alleged resistance to China's WTO accession, pressures to change its arms sales policies, and the recent expansion of the U.S.­Japan Security Alliance as evidence of Washington's desire to contain China. This, in turn, slows Chinese economic development, prolongs its division, and prevents Beijing from exercising its proper regional role and influence.

At the same time, many influential political figures in the United States are similarly suspicious of Beijing's intentions. There is concern that as China's comprehensive national strength increases, Beijing will challenge U.S. regional and global leadership, a course that if adopted could directly threaten vital national and core interests.

As the October 1997 meeting of the two presidents indicates, however, neither side wishes to see relations deteriorate. Given the high priority China assigns to economic development, good economic and strategic relations with the United States and the other core states are a vital national interest and will continue to be so for decades to come. On one hand, Beijing must engage with the core to gain economic benefit, but on the other it remains concerned about the potential impact of core political values on its future stability. The United States and the other core states place a similarly high value on economic relations with China but retain varying degrees of concern about its political system and strategic intentions.

China's response to this impasse has been to keep its economic and political options open while protecting its core interests in Taiwan by all available means, including military options and, more significantly, shaping a regional security framework that will best meet China's future interests. Both efforts lead to direct competition with the United States and, under certain circumstances, might risk confrontation and armed conflict.

In March 1996, Beijing conducted military exercises in the Taiwan Strait. The PLA tested a number of M9 missiles by firing them near Taiwan's northern and southern port cities of Keelung and Kaohsiung. The Chinese were not attempting to compel Taiwan to accept immediate reunification but rather were signaling their determination to arrest the growth of sentiment favoring Taiwan's independence.

The Chinese clearly misjudged U.S. reaction and were surprised by the successive deployments of two aircraft carrier battle groups. Yet Beijing would almost certainly use military means again if it considered them necessary to prevent a Taiwanese declaration of independence. Many circles in China, particularly the PLA, continue to see the U.S. response as an indication of its support for Taiwan's independence. The issue of Taiwan will continue to vex U.S.-China relations and, were one side to miscalculate the other's intentions, could lead to armed conflict.

Beijing's effort to build a separate regional security framework also is developing. During March and April 1997, through bilateral strategic dialogues, the official English-language press, and discussions on confidence-building measures convened by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP), the Chinese began to promulgate a new paradigm for regional security that emphasizes multilateral security structures and regimes. Beijing's approach appears to challenge directly the present architecture's reliance on bilateral security alliances and forward military deployments. "Security Cooperation Partnerships" similar to those between China and Russia now form part of the proposed Chinese vision.

The new approach is risky for Beijing because it flies in the face of overwhelming regional satisfaction with the present security structure. Nevertheless, Chinese strategists view this approach as an effective means of circumscribing the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance, fostering the development of multipolarity within the region, and undercutting Washington's primacy in regional security affairs. This challenge to the U.S. regional position will very probably emerge as a regular element of Beijing's overall position. This manner of low-intensity, low-risk competition with the United States is also highly likely to continue into the future and to contribute to the persistent pattern of pendulum swings in the relations between Washington and Beijing.


Recurrent Pan-Asianism

Although transition states, particularly those in Southeast Asia, clearly accept core economic values, their positions on such political norms as pluralism, the value of civil society, and legitimate government are ambiguous. As the 1996 and 1997 ministerial sessions of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) showed, considerable disagreement exists between the United States and other ARF participants over issues such as the right of political expression, working conditions, and free elections.

The regional response to perceived U.S. pressure on human rights is defensive, which is often manifested as a reflexive assertion of "Asian Values." China and Singapore are the most vocal examples. Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand share this resentment. From time to time in the past, these stresses have proved damaging to U.S. security relations with such states.

U.S. International Military Education and Training (IMET) and arms sales to Indonesia, the largest and most powerful member of ASEAN, for instance, remain curtailed in response to Jakarta's military suppression of the East Timor separatists. Washington also imposed sanctions after Megawati Sukarnoputri was removed as head of the leading opposition party on the eve of the May 1997 parliamentary elections. Similarly, protests over the caning of an American boy in February 1994 brought bilateral relations with Singapore to a near standstill. They also slowed efforts to energize bilateral agreements to provide U.S. military forces with access to repair facilities in Singapore. Finally, disagreement on imposing sanctions on Myanmar in response to human rights abuses has become almost a permanent sore point between Washington and other ARF members. Should such stresses become the norm, problems would clearly intensify. Washington is challenged to adopt proactive polices for dealing with this potential problem.

Shaping the Strategic Environment

Averting Conflict

The Korean peninsula and the Taiwan Strait are the two most probable sites of conflict in the Asia-Pacific region. Unresolved territorial claims include:

The powers involved have consistently demonstrated a commitment to preventing situations from escalating into sustained conflict and, in all cases, have resorted to political means to contain tensions within nonconflictual bounds. This commitment will continue into the future.

The dynamics of the Korean peninsula and the Taiwan Strait are very different and therefore require different strategies to avert conflict. With respect to the Korean peninsula, the potential adversary is a rogue state that may be on the edge of failure. Averting conflict there requires, first and foremost, maintaining and strengthening deterrence. It must be made clear to Pyongyang that the use of military means for any purpose will inevitably result in total destruction of the juche regime.

Republic of Korea

The principal means of averting conflict on the Korean peninsula is to maintain an actively engaged U.S. military presence. This presence must be large and vigorous enough to serve several interrelated functions. First, for example, even though the military balance may in many respects have shifted in favor of the ROK, it is unrealistic to expect that the armed forces of the South could prosecute and win a major conflict against the North entirely on their own. By design, as reflected in the concept of the Combined Forces Command, South Korean and U.S. military forces complement, rather than duplicate, each other's capabilities. As a result, the intelligence, naval, air, and logistical assets of ROK military forces are insufficient to deal with a determined North Korean assault without complementary U.S. strength.

Second, presence is similarly the best means of dealing with a relatively new element in the peninsular military equation, the threat posed by possible North Korean WMD. Although the nuclear dimension of this threat appears to be under control, questions remain about the chemical and biological weapons capabilities of the North. Presence needs to include capabilities for dealing with this potential threat.

Finally, deterrence through presence is an effective means of supporting and encouraging new political and diplomatic developments of the inter-Korean situation. The United States needs to demonstrate that it is engaged for the long haul and is an enduring, consistent presence that remains relatively well-insulated from political currents.

While continuing to maintain an appropriate force presence, innovative approaches to defining and maintaining presence must be explored. Here, the experience of the U.S. military in the Middle East may be useful. As noted in chapter four, U.S. forces in the Middle East are required to be lethal and active but also to retain a relatively low profile in order to avoid sparking nationalist or religion-based opposition. Thus the United States relies heavily on prepositioning, demonstrating the ability to surge, and rotating forces and assets. Its forces in Korea will continue to have far more latitude than their counterparts in the Middle East. These forces may prove useful for developing proactive strategies to maintain deterrence while avoiding the frictions produced by social and political developments.


Averting conflict in the Taiwan Strait poses a different challenge. Conflict there is probable only if Taiwan declares independence. The cross-strait problem is political and best resolved by interaction between Beijing and Taipei. Yet the United States is involved: the Taiwan Relations Act, which has the force of U.S. law, mandates that Washington provide Taiwan with the materiel required to defend the island. Moreover, any U.S. administration would come under significant pressure to defend Taiwan were conflict to occur, no matter the cause.

Visits to Taipei and Beijing by mid-level Taiwanese and Chinese officials in June and August 1997 suggested that the stage is being set for a resumption of the cross-strait dialogue suspended by Beijing after Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui's visit to the United States in June 1995. In the circumstances, the best means available to Washington to avert conflict is to continue to reassert its insistence on a peaceful settlement by encouraging and supporting resumption of that dialogue and by using arms sales to Taiwan to maintain the military balance across the strait. The United States might also use political channels to convey its concern to Taipei about any unilateral attempt to alter the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.

Other than regular transits of the strait to assert the right of innocent passage by U.S. naval vessels through international waters (freedom of navigation operations, or FONOPS), there is no requirement for routine presence by U.S. forces. Deployments are necessary only in times of crisis and would serve as a convincing demonstration of U.S. insistence on a peaceful resolution, helping to assure other states in the region of U.S. determination and constancy. Of course, deployments during a crisis must be wisely managed because, as the U.S. deployment of two carrier battle groups to the Taiwan Strait area in March 1996 showed, both Taipei and Beijing interpret such actions as supporting Taiwan and thus opposing Beijing. Other regional powers express concern that such deployments may provoke an accidental conflict.

Enhancing Confidence

Japan, South Korea, the members of ASEAN, and even China acknowledge that the balancing function of the U.S. military presence has been and remains crucial to maintaining the order and stability of the region. If the United States were to withdraw or to reduce its role significantly, the consequences for regional stability would be unpredictable. In every corner of the Asia-Pacific, the United States is challenged to enhance confidence in its intention and ability to remain a commanding economic, political, and military presence. Put differently, Washington is challenged to enhance confidence in its ability to function primus inter pares as the effective source of regional leadership. The United States aims to enhance such confidence to keep the region peaceful, stable, and secure.

During the Cold War, enhancing confidence meant maintaining an overwhelming preponderance of military force in the region. Alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and the remnant SEATO connection with Thailand, many strategically located permanent bases, and frequent periodic exercises such as RIMPAC (Northeast Asia), Cobra Gold (Southeast Asia), and Team Spirit (Korea), all served convincingly to demonstrate U.S. strength and resolve, despite a temporary decline after the Vietnam conflict. Regional confidence in the United States was demonstrated by the remarkable economic development that occurred. Even China acknowledged the considerable benefit of the U.S. military presence and role.

Since 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union, regional confidence in the United States has fluctuated. It hit a low point in late 1995 and early 1996 when the U.S. regional economic role was challenged by Japan, severely straining U.S. ties with both China and Japan. The reconstituted alliance with Japan indicates a renewed sense of common purpose, and the exchange of presidential visits suggests the possibility of improvement in U.S.-China relations.

These changes provided strong evidence that the effectiveness of U.S. leadership is now judged in the region according to criteria that include a new, larger measure of political and economic elements than during the Cold War. In present circumstances, enhancing confidence involves:

This is not to suggest that the role of the Department of Defense in enhancing confidence in the United States in this region is shrinking, but rather that it may face pressure for change. Military presence will continue to be the most important means of supporting confidence-enhancing goals and the one that provides a basis for efforts in the political and economic spheres. Japanese and Korean willingness to adjust their treaty relations with Washington according to new realities imposed by the end of the Cold War demonstrates that the region views military presence as the most potent symbol of U.S. commitment. The potential diminution of the North Korean threat and the willingness of ASEAN members to allow U.S. forces access to their facilities are further indications of this view. However, the forces, trends, and requirements of the confidence-enhancement agenda noted above suggest a need for greater activism in demonstrating the constancy of the U.S. commitment. Pressures exist to consider means of making credibly deliverable capabilities the measure of presence, rather than numbers of military personnel and permanently deployed weapons systems.

Engagement is a key to such a transition. The United States can share its superior capabilities with its allies and, as with Japan, can join with them to develop new capabilities. Washington might also develop an incremental program of exercises to enhance interoperability and joint and combined operations and to develop the revised defense cooperation guidelines with Japan. It would also be useful to begin exercises with the PLA in peacekeeping operations, if only as an initial effort. Then, too, professional military education channels are useful in developing an appreciation of joint doctrine. In sum, an active engagement with the militaries of the region by the Department of Defense would demonstrate not just the superiority of its military power but also its willingness to use it in support of core interests.

Creating Complementarity

If present trends, including a perception of a reduced threat from North Korea and recurring cycles of pan-Asianism, continue, the United States will face increasing pressure to reduce the size of its regional military deployments. This, in turn, may require considering measures to maintain presence while simultaneously reducing the number of forces, but it would not require reducing either the visibility of U.S. forces or the ability of the United States to bring its power to bear. A key factor is building greater complementarity with the military forces of the region.

A high level of complementarity already exists between the forces of the United States and those of its Australian, Japanese, and Korean allies. In the event of crisis on the Korean peninsula, the combination of U.S. and ROK forces will hold the line until U.S. power projection capability can be brought to bear with help from Japan and Australia. In Southeast Asia, the situation is different. Except for Thailand, considerably less complementarity exists between U.S. forces and those of the ASEAN transition states. The likelihood of armed conflict within the subregion is small.

Thus the issue for Washington is to fine-tune complementarity with Canberra, Tokyo, and Seoul in order to deal with a regional threat. The United States must simultaneously build complementarity with the members of ASEAN, to the extent that political conditions permit, to safeguard the future. The process of revising the Defense Cooperation Guidelines with Japan shows that such efforts will be complicated by the need to avoid threatening China and provoking regionwide concern about new roles for Japan.

For this reason, the division of labor with allied and friendly military forces should not be changed. Superior American intelligence and power-projection capabilities, the lethality of U.S. forces, and the proven effectiveness of joint doctrine should continue to provide the basis for any potential activities by combined military forces.

The United States is extremely well positioned to build complementarity in the Asia-Pacific region for the following reasons:

The key to progress, then, is to intensify active engagement between the United States and regional military establishments.

Arms sales are an obvious and central means to building complementarity. But translating weapons systems into credible military capabilities is also essential, as is an active pattern of engagement. The need to master identical systems requires education and training, which Washington provides through its IMET programs. The Pentagon might consider expanding these and drawing more foreign military officers into the IMET and professional military education networks. Washington might also consider:

Hostile and Transition States

With respect to the Korean peninsula, the United States may already have achieved some success in shaping the strategy of the DPRK. The combination of deterrence and diplomacy led to the 1994 Agreed Framework. Although severely criticized at the time, the agreement seems to have blunted North Korea's attempt to neutralize U.S. power with the threat of nuclear weapons. Pyongyang's reprocessing plant has been closed, it is cooperating with IAEA inspectors, and initial work on the reactor for power generation has begun. Similarly, Pyongyang's participation in the Four Party Talks suggests a new willingness to use political and diplomatic means to achieve its goal of prolonging the existence of the regime. Thus far, and despite uncertainties about potential chemical and biological capabilities, nothing indicates that U.S. strategies are pushing North Korea to adopt additional asymmetric measures. The challenge for the United States now is to encourage this tendency and to translate it into concrete gains in further reducing the threat of conflict on the peninsula.

Certainly, the U.S. military presence there has been essential to gains achieved thus far and must be maintained into the future. If, however, the North Korean threat continues to recede, pressure will grow to reduce U.S. forces in Korea. This pressure will pose certain dilemmas. Continued presence will remain essential to supporting diplomatic efforts to maintain deterrence. It will be essential, too, to reassure Japan and the region of U.S. commitment and remind China of Washington's vital interests there. Finally, the United States may wish to consider redefining the alliance with Korea as it has done with Japan, to focus it away from defense and toward maintaining regional peace and stability. Korea would thus join Japan as a base from which U.S. forces could stage to deal with crises elsewhere.

Cobra Gold '97, Thailand

It is possible to retain an adequate level of military presence on the peninsula, to adjust it in response to changing conditions and requirements, and to use those adjustments to secure additional gains. For example, the United States might introduce the issue of reducing the threat of military conflict into the diplomatic processes now unfolding on the peninsula. North Korea might be persuaded that aid, establishing diplomatic contacts, and support for joining the Asian Development Bank are available, but only if it were willing to reduce military tensions. If its condition further weakens, North Korea could be required to reposition certain categories of forces away from the DMZ and to participate in several threat-reduction, confidence-building measures. Washington and Seoul might offer roughly equivalent actions, in addition to aid and assistance.

Defense against any aggression is the immediate purpose of U.S. engagement in the region. In the longer run, the chief purpose will be to shape the strategy of China, a transition state that holds the key to the future of the Asia-Pacific region. For Washington, shaping China's strategy means persuading Beijing that its best interests lie in adopting the values of the core and that it has little to gain by attempting to build military capabilities equal to those of the United States and using them to challenge the U.S. regional position.

The U.S. strategy toward China is to demonstrate its overall strategic capability through alliances and forward military deployments. This capability will deter Chinese military adventurism and simultaneously engage it in ways designed to enmesh Beijing in a web of relationships that serve mutual interests. Eventually, it is hoped, the combination of approaches will produce the desired result.

Yet a contradiction between the two approaches seriously challenges the ability of the United States to realize its aims. China's deep suspicion of U.S. strategic intentions makes relations between the two states fundamentally competitive. Thus actions designed to demonstrate U.S. power and resolve to maintain regional peace and stability are interpreted by Beijing as evidence of efforts by Washington to create hedges against China's future behavior or, more seriously, to prevent its rise to the status of a great power.

At the regional level, Beijing sees U.S. efforts to avert conflict in Taiwan, to enhance confidence in and cohesion with Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asian states, to build complementary capabilities, and, indeed, to shape strategies all as efforts aimed against China. Some Chinese believe they are a target of U.S. actions. Similarly, at the bilateral level, efforts by Washington to engage Beijing in such areas as proliferation, entry into the WTO, or human rights, or to secure a peaceful transition in the Taiwan Strait are viewed as intrusions into China's internal affairs or infringements on Chinese sovereignty.

Resolving this dilemma completely may not be possible. The United States can neither abrogate its responsibilities nor reject its interests. The most appropriate course may be to accept the contradictions and try to limit their negative effects. The United States might reaffirm engagement with a new focus on the major issues and also emphasize areas of agreement.

Within that context, the major contact points between the United States and China in the next 10 years will probably involve Taiwan, the Korean peninsula, proliferation, and multilateralism. Taiwan is the most significant friction point. If it were to cease being the defining issue in U.S.-China relations, the way would be clear for progress in other areas. If the United States is to shape Chinese strategies, it will need to interact with China on these issues and problems. Efforts by DoD will necessarily be supportive of thosemounted in the political and economic relationship. Nonetheless, the U.S. military has an important role to play.

Beijing points to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan as evidence of negative U.S. intentions, while seeking reassurances that the United States does not support Taiwan independence. Washington can neither provide such assurances nor deny that Taipei's case for continued arms sales is strengthened by such Chinese behavior as the March 1996 military exercises and missile tests.

Two developments may provide some latitude. First, Taiwan is now acquiring 150 F­16 and 50 Mirage fighter aircraft. Its navy is acquiring six LaFayette-class and seven Perry Class frigates and is actively seeking submarine purchases. With the exception of air defense systems, the Taiwanese Armed Forces are at the end of a procurement cycle, and time is needed to assimilate the new systems. For the next three years or so, realistic pressure by Taiwan for new sales will diminish. Second, evidence suggests that cross-strait dialogue may resume sometime in 1998. The combination of these events might reduce the rationale for new sales and thereby provide Washington with grounds for a more agnostic approach to arms sales. At the same time, the U.S. military must also stand ready to reaffirm U.S. insistence on a peaceful settlement, should tensions flare up again.

On the Korean peninsula, China and the United States share an interest in helping to resolve any problems created by the failure of the North Korean state, such as refugee flows and disarming the North Korean military. The U.S. military might enter into discussions with Chinese counterparts on these subjects. A more sensitive topic would be the U.S. presence on the peninsula after reunification. China would probably insist on a major reconsideration of the U.S. presence after reunification or of a greatly reduced threat from North Korea, but would also assume the continued existence of some manner of security tie between the United States and a unified Korea. Discussions might help to clarify the thinking of both sides and to define proactive policies for the future.

Beijing demonstrates increasing willingness to participate in efforts to control the proliferation of WMD by subscribing to or signing the following:

In addition, China has placed the most objectionable portion of the peaceful nuclear technology agreement with Iran on hold. Only the relationship with Pakistan, of high geostrategic importance to Beijing, will continue uninterrupted. Despite this, Beijing has informally signaled willingness to join with the United States to consider ways and means to reduce the potential for conflict in South Asia. This, too, might prove a fertile field for exploration by Washington.

The United States must also deal with the challenge of China's call for a new regional security framework with a high component of multilateralism. Bilateral relations aside, the alliance management and relations with ASEAN require a firm response by Washington. At present, alliances with Australia, Japan, and Korea are stronger than at any time since the late 1980s. These three states would most probably not be willing to trade the certain benefits of alliances for uncertain potential benefits of a multilateral security regime. The DoD would be unlikely to lose by expanding engagement with regional military forces to include discussion of a range of multilateral confidence-building measures and participating in combined exercises.

In Southeast Asia, the strategies of the ASEAN states are evolving toward consonance with U.S. interests. ASEAN military forces routinely share intelligence on such matters as piracy and refugee movements, and annual exercises help to develop complementarity and interoperability. The task for the United States is to encourage these trends and to build and consolidate ties with the military establishments of the subregion.

To accomplish this, Washington will have to move carefully. The ASEAN states are sensitive to the fact that U.S. military presence created an environment in which they could take the first tentative steps toward military cooperation. Yet they are equally sensitive to the prospect of future relations with China requiring that U.S. presence be neither too visible nor too active. Thus, the U.S. role in shaping ASEAN strategies lies in engagement once removed from the region itself and heavily infused with professional military education and strategic consultation.


Shaping the environment of the Asia-Pacific region presents the United States and its core partners with two major challenges. The first involves a contradiction; the second involves means.

The first challenge suggests it is absolutely essential to consolidate ties with Japan and the transition states of Southeast Asia. U.S. efforts to do so, however, have already generated tension in U.S.-China relations and will continue to do so into the next decade. Security ties between Washington, its alliance partners, and ASEAN are closer than ever before, at the cost of a strained relationship with Beijing. If such stresses continue, they might spill over, exerting a negative influence on relations. Managing the integration of China into the community of core states will increasingly occupy the attention of U.S. officials as they seek to shape the regional environment for the future. It will require the greatest coordination of military, political, and economic instruments.

The question of means is very significant. To shape the environment most effectively, the United States will continue demonstrating its ability to project power into the region, although present trends indicate that the changing regional political environment will make it increasingly difficult to accomplish this by means of permanent bases and forward deployments. For that reason, in the next decade, U.S. forces will be challenged to maintain necessary capabilities while simultaneously reducing their size in the region. A new emphasis is highly likely on sharing roles and missions with regional allies, developing interoperability, preparing for rapid reinforcement, and prepositioning materiel for use in emergencies.


The modern states of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka comprise the area commonly referred to as South Asia or the Indian Ocean region. However, attention is usually turned toward the two principal states, India and Pakistan. These states have fought three wars against each other since independence from Great Britain in 1947 and are perhaps the most likely flashpoint for conflict involving nuclear weapons. Any confrontation between the two armies of over a million troops evokes world attention, and yet this is a region where U.S. influence is minimal.


The history of India and Pakistan is a blood-hued mosaic of invasions through Central Asia. The most successful invaders were Muslims using Mamaluke blades as persuasively to convert as to conquer. For Muslims and the indigenous Hindus, zealous believers both, their foods, places of worship, tolerances, even attitudes toward animals challenge each other: there is little middle ground and little room for compromise. In addition to historic animosities, the region echoes the general Asian challenges to the core's values, including issues such as human rights, economic practices, and terrorism. Also, India has an indigenous nuclear weapons capability, and Pakistan is suspected of receiving Chinese nuclear technology to assist in developing its own.

Indo-Pakistani Tension

Colonial India was fragmented among nearly 600 princely states and provinces, led by powerful Hindu or Muslim rulers. Perhaps 200 years' experience in India convinced the British of the need to separate Hindu from Muslim. On August 15, 1947, Great Britain granted independence to the Republics of India and Pakistan, and the Indo-Pakistani conflict was born. Pakistan was further divided into East and West Pakistan, separated by nearly 1,000 miles of northern India. The provinces could join either India or Pakistan, and their rulers were sent the draft Instrument of Accession upon which to affix their nation of choice. For the most part, states voted with their religious majority--Hindus to India and Muslims to Pakistan--but an estimated 12 million refugees fled across new borders, and nearly a million more are estimated to have died in associated hostilities. The artificial peace enforced by the British between Hindus and Muslims disintegrated with the demise of the Raj.

Kashmir, the largest of the princely states, was unique in that it was a cultural composite of Hindu and Muslims, contiguous to both India and Pakistan. The maharajah of Kashmir refused to sign the Instrument of Accession, though a full-scale attack by Pakistan within a month prompted a decision to join with India, as a precondition for military assistance. Pakistan did not accept the legality of the document and continued fighting. India referred the conflict to the newly formed United Nations in December 1947. In January 1949, India and Pakistan agreed to a cease-fire line along existing positions, a withdrawal of forces, and a Kashmiri plebiscite to make a final determination of its future. Fifty-one years, two more Indo-Pakistani conflicts (1965 and 1971), and thousands of casualties later, Kashmir is no nearer a solution than in 1947.

U.S. Interests

Encourage Regional States to Resolve Their Differences Peacefully

While the United States has no interest in mediating the Kashmir issue, India's desire to assume greater regional influence hinges upon an Indo-Pakistan political rapprochement. An impartial U.S. support for peaceful resolution will avoid alienating either state and may improve relations with both.

Contain WMD Proliferation

Both India and Pakistan are essentially members of the nuclear power club, but Pakistan is increasingly linked to the covert receipt (at least from China) of various components required to enhance its nuclear capability. While the United States recognizes the sovereign right of states to determine their defense needs, in the case of India and Pakistan there remains global concern that a future Kashmir conflict would involve tactical nuclear weapons, significantly lowering the threshold of nuclear use.

Promote a Climate of Regional Trust and Cooperation

Economic power and security have gained global importance as tools of policy in the post-Cold War environment, especially in the Indian Ocean region. Although India's United Front (UF) coalition government failed late in 1997, caretaker Prime Minister I.K. Gujral's "Gujral Doctrine" of peace and cooperation with India's neighbors--to include Pakistan--endured until early 1998, when new elections brought in a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. Additionally, both India and Pakistan can make use of historical links and current economic ties to the Persian Gulf region to assist in enhancing stability within that key region.

Encourage Regional States to Embrace Core Values

The Indo-Pakistani dispute generates little interest within most of Asia but does detract from the regional image both countries wish to project. India has already realized tangible benefits from its Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) partnerships.


Peaceful Resolution of Differences Evolving Slowly

For India the Kashmir dispute remains a sufficiently threatening national security issue. It has eclipsed virtually all other defense-related concerns and has contributed to the growth of nationalistic political parties like India's Bharatiya Janata Party, and to rounds of fragile coalition building among political splinter groups. With the fading of the Nehru and Gandhi legacies, the dominating, unifying role played by the Congress (I) party has essentially disappeared. Nevertheless, India has moved proactively to ease tensions with Pakistan, to improve its relations with other regional neighbors, and to play a more active regional economic and strategic role.

WMD Proliferation Covertly Continuing

Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, are making a comeback as traditional approaches to nonproliferation have an increasingly weaker effect on aspiring regional powers. While many factors influence a state's decision to pursue WMD capabilities, worst case assumptions concerning a rival state's activities or intentions all too often are the deciding factor. India's 1974 detonation of a nuclear device, for example, prompted Pakistan to develop a nuclear weapons program. Policymakers in both India and Pakistan have concluded that a nuclear weapons capability serves their national security and political interests. While India's nuclear development is indigenously supported, Pakistan's program has relied on foreign assistance, principally from China.

India Seeking Broader Role

India has turned its strategic interest from Pakistan to the South Asia region. It recently gained ARF membership and seeks to join in other regional security and economic fora. Owing to efforts by both New Delhi and Beijing, Indian relations with China are stable. India looks forward to closer economic ties and political parity, while maintaining subregional dominance.

Core Values Gradually Spreading

Over a third of the population of this region still lives in abject poverty. Over 40 percent (primarily women) cannot read or write. Famines and drought still ravage the population of the subcontinent. However, measurable advances are taking place, particularly in India, where the government is taking more responsibility for the human rights of its populace and taking steps to avert the major crises that affect the region. Furthermore, increased interest in expanding economic ties through membership in regional fora is an indicator that India and Pakistan are gradually accepting the globalization of markets and are at least willing to address economic and political reform to further integrate into the global economy.

Shaping Forces Available to the United States

Traditionally, the United States has considered South Asia a strategic backwater. Developing relations with the core poses a strategic dilemma for India: on the one hand, New Delhi is aware of the economic benefits of such ties, but it also recognizes the many strings attached, such as changes to nuclear weapons policy.

India is in the U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility (AOR); Pakistan is in the U.S. Central Command AOR, which causes some problems of coordination of policy. Given the lack of strategic interests in the region, such shaping factors involving force projection, robustness, or lethality do not play a major role in relations with the Indian Ocean region. Diplomacy and increased military-to-military relations are the most likely venues for enhancing regional stability and encouraging local nations to join or improve relations with the core. These are long-range factors, depending on a gradual increase in confidence and simultaneous decrease in tensions. As defense strategies are developed over time without resorting to armed conflict, the heavy reliance on nuclear WMD as a policy will mature, preferably into a policy similar to that developed by the rest of the "nuclear club," most of which are in the core.

Model Establishment

The Indian armed forces have nearly a million troops and sufficient combat platforms to mount a credible defense of national interests. There have been combined exercises with the U.S. 7th Fleet over the past three years. Pakistan maintains a large land force of half a million troops, with a primary mission to protect the long land border with India and the contested Siachen Glacier region. U.S. contacts with the Pakistani armed forces have dropped in recent years, with military sales nearly dried up after decades of heavy investment during the Afghanistan civil war.

Unlike Pakistan, India possesses the manpower, expertise, and raw materials to support a growing defense industry. To India's possible disadvantage, however, military leaders play no role in the formulation of defense policy, and for the most part, bureaucrats within India's Ministry of Defence know little about national security and defense issues. As a result, India has neither a national strategy planning process nor strategic defense doctrine. The United States provides a training environment for selected South Asia military students at senior professional military education institutions such as the National War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. Additionally, India and Pakistan have asked U.S. military leaders to share knowledge gained through force structure and mission analyses such as the Quadrennial Defense Review to improve their own military planning strategies.           

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