Questions Surround U.S. Commitment To Asia-Pacific Pivot

By Michael Fabey
Source: Aerospace Daily & Defense Report
August 23, 2013
Credit: U.S. Navy

Geopolitical analysts continue to question the U.S. commitment to rebalancing its forces in the Asia-Pacific region to reinvigorate the nation’s presence there.

The recent skepticism echoes similar concerns raised by Asia-based analysts about just how strong a military player the U.S. intends to be in the Asia-Pacific region. The doubts are surfacing amid reports of major military buildups by American partners in the region.

Indeed, while all the attention seems focused on China’s intentions and impacts in the region, the Asian giant will not be the biggest variable in geopolitical security in that part of the world, argues Randal Shriver, president and CEO of the Project 2049 Institute think tank. Shriver is also founding partner of Armitage International and a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“It is not China,” Shriver said Aug. 22 during an event hosted by the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. “It is the United States. And if the U.S. is not up to the task, that throws uncertainty into that region.”

The problem is that, despite President Barack Obama’s touted Asia-Pacific rebalancing, there continues to be no “go-to” person in the administration for Asia — nor does the administration seem to still have passion for the effort, he says. There seems to be little concrete to back up the plans.

“The question now is there any ‘there’ there,” says Shriver, who served from 2003-2005 as deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

In May, William Choong, the Shangri-La Dialogue senior fellow at the Singapore-based International Institute for Strategic Studies-Asia (IISS), raised similar concerns about the U.S. commitment because of a lack of perceived military force to back up the rebalancing plans.

“They’re putting across this ‘small footprint,’” he says, noting there is no “major” show of power.

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