December 31, 2011

WHILE BOTH CLINTONS DESERVE SOME CREDIT...:

America's Play for Pacific Prosperity: The U.S. has quietly set up a bipartisan Asia policy that may be as influential as the Marshall Plan and NATO. (WALTER RUSSELL MEAD, 12/29/11, WSJ)

Beginning with the Clinton administration, which ended the trade embargo with Vietnam in 1994 and normalized relations a year later, the U.S. has been deepening its relations with key Asian countries. U.S. engagement with India, Indonesia, Japan, Mongolia, Australia and Singapore is deeper and broader today than it was at the end of the Cold War. This engagement is economic in all cases, military in most. President George W. Bush even signed a nuclear-cooperation agreement with India in 2005, despite the cost of complicating relations with Pakistan.

This poses a strategic dilemma for Beijing. If it doesn't push back, the new U.S.-centered Asian system will continue to develop. But if it tries to block the system, it may frighten its neighbors into an even closer American embrace.

In the last two years, China chose to assert itself by stoking disputes over strategically vital (and perhaps energy-rich) areas of the South China Sea. This alarmed its neighbors, and in turn the Obama administration engineered a dramatic diplomatic revolution that will likely serve as the foundation of the region's security architecture in Asia for some time to come.

On his November visit to Australia, President Obama announced that U.S. Marines will be based in the northern city of Darwin, close enough to the South China Sea to reassure the neighborhood, but far enough away to limit the provocation to China. At the same time, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that Australia would begin uranium sales to India. And last week the State Department announced that Japan, India and the U.S. held the first of a series of trilateral security talks on Asian and global issues.

Also in recent weeks, Japan announced that it was purchasing F-35 fighters from the U.S. and joining negotiations to establish the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a U.S.-backed free-trade initiative covering the Asia-Pacific region. China is currently excluded from the initiative but could be invited in later.

India, Japan and the U.S. are also assisting the junta in Myanmar as it seeks to distance itself from China's suffocating embrace. Shortly after Myanmar canceled a major hydroelectric project intended to sell power to China in September, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the country, Japan lifted a ban on aid, and India announced that it is helping Myanmar build a new port.

It was W's embrace of India, Mongolia, Indonesia, etc. that really got things rolling.
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Posted by at December 31, 2011 8:43 AM
  

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