Monday, 10 September 2012

US' Asian 'Pivot' strategy

Pivot means the central point, pin, or shaft on which a mechanism turns or oscillates.

The US's new 'Asian Pivot" strategy was unveiled by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton in November 2011, in an article to Foreign Policy magazine. In the article Clinton argues that the Asia-Pacific has become a key driver of global politics.  And that the USA should enhance focus and engagement with the Asia-Pacific region. By virtue of its unique geography, the United States is both an Atlantic and a Pacific power. Below are key points from Clinton's article.

Why Asia-Pacific is important?
  • The region spans two oceans -- the Pacific and the Indian -- that are increasingly linked by shipping and strategy. 
  • It boasts almost half the world's population. 
  • It includes many of the key engines of the global economy, as well as the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. 
  • Home to several allies and important emerging powers like China, India, and Indonesia.

Why US engagement in Asia-Pacific is important for the US?
  1. The relations, institutions and values that the US fosters in the region will build the infrastructure that will support continued American leadership. 
  2. Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology. Our economic recovery at home will depend on exports and the ability of American firms to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia. 
  3. Strategically, maintaining peace and security across the Asia-Pacific is increasingly crucial to global progress, whether through defending freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, countering the proliferation efforts of North Korea, or ensuring transparency in the military activities of the region's key players.

How US' enhanced engagement is beneficial to Asia-Pacific?
US is the only power with a network of strong alliances in the region, no territorial ambitions, and a long record of providing for the common good. By patrolling Asia's sea lanes and preserving stability it has helped created conditions for growth. 

How USA plans to enhance engagement with the region?
  • A sustained commitment termed, by Clinton as,  "forward-deployed" diplomacy: means continuing to dispatch the full range of diplomatic assets --  highest-ranking officials, development experts, interagency teams, and permanent assets -- to every country and corner of the Asia-Pacific region. 
  • Strategy will have to keep accounting for and adapting to the rapid and dramatic shifts playing out across Asia. 
  • Work will proceed along six key lines of action: 
    • strengthening bilateral security alliances; 
    • deepening our working relationships with emerging powers, including with China; 
    • engaging with regional multilateral institutions; 
    • expanding trade and investment; 
    • forging a broad-based military presence; and 
    • advancing democracy and human rights.
  • Update existing alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand to adapt to new demands. 
  • Build new partnerships with China, India, Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, Mongolia, Vietnam, Brunei, and the Pacific Island. The USA is encouraging these emerging partners to join them in shaping and participating in a rules-based regional and global order.
  • China: most prominent emerging partner of the US. 
    •  Identify and expand areas of common interest, to build mutual trust, and encourage China's active efforts in global problem-solving. A Strategic and Economic Dialogue the most intensive and expansive talks, bringing together multiple agencies to discuss our most pressing bilateral issues, from security to energy to human rights.
    • Increase transparency and reduce the risk of miscalculation between the  respective militaries. China's efforts to modernize and expand its military have caused concern to USA and others. So encouraging China to forge a durable military-to-military dialogue is key.
India and the US' Asian Pivot
Clinton states that the United States is making a strategic bet on India's future -- that India's greater role on the world stage will enhance peace and security, that opening India's markets to the world will pave the way to greater regional and global prosperity, that Indian advances in science and technology will improve lives and advance human knowledge everywhere, and that India's vibrant, pluralistic democracy will produce measurable results and improvements for its citizens and inspire others to follow a similar path of openness and tolerance. 
So the Obama administration has expanded our bilateral partnership; actively supported India's Look East efforts, including through a new trilateral dialogue with India and Japan; and outlined a new vision for a more economically integrated and politically stable South and Central Asia, with India as a linchpin.

Clinton identifies China, India, and the United States as the three giants of the Asia-Pacific amongst whom it seeks to enhance coordination and engagement.  Indonesia is the other key emerging power with which the USA looks to work closely.
Engagement with regional multilateral institutions:
ASEANUnited States has opened a new U.S. Mission to ASEAN  in Jakarta and signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with ASEAN. The US has been involved in addressing disputes in the South China Sea, especially to secure unfettered access and passage through the Sea, and to uphold the key international rules for defining territorial claims in the South China Sea's waters, and encourage multilateral diplomacy among the many parties with claims in the South China Sea.
Other "minilateral" meetings: The US is promoting small groupings of interested states to tackle specific challenges, such as:
Lower Mekong Initiative  to support education, health, and environmental programs in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, 
- Pacific Islands Forum where US is  supporting members to confront challenges from climate change, and freedom of navigation. 3

  • China's rapid military build-up and its tough stance on territorial disputes with weaker Southeast Asian neighbors has inadvertently given a boost to Obama's enhanced Asia strategy, variously called a pivot, a refocus or a rebalancing.
  • The strengthening of alliances with a number of countries, reinforced by Ms. Clinton’s over 7 visits to the region by end-2011, has been seen by many analysts here as being aimed at containing China.
  • The official U.S. line that its more energetic Asia-Pacific diplomacy is "not directed at any one country" is scarcely taken at face value - not least in that unnamed one country. But the polite fiction employed by Washington serves Asia-Pacific countries who seek security assurances from the far-away United States without sacrificing important trade with nearby China and its fast-growing economy.
  • For now, many nations in Asia have welcomed the U.S. pivot despite the danger of antagonizing Beijing.  "What you are seeing is key players in the region playing their cards differently," . Australia and other traditional U.S. allies have publicly backed Washington's new strategy, while others, such as Vietnam, have quietly but enthusiastically sought closer ties to counter China's "turbo-charged" military expansion.Threatened by China's growing assertiveness, Manila sees Washington's new Asia policy as "essential to ameliorate its growing security dilemma,".
  • Some regional security experts, however, say the renewed U.S. emphasis on Asia has emboldened China's opponents in the South China Sea dispute, an outcome Washington might not have intended. "The U.S. becoming involved has fired up the Philippines and Vietnam to contest things more strongly,".
  • China has warily viewed the strengthening of U.S. alliances with countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines, which have had tensions with Beijing over the South China Sea. Ms. Clinton had stressed the need for the involved countries to create a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. “Washington owes Beijing a thorough, convincing explanation of the true intentions of its Pivot policy, especially on issues related to China’s vital or core interests,” added the official Xinhua news agency in a commentary. “And the U.S. also needs to take concrete steps to prove that it is returning to Asia as a peacemaker, instead of a troublemaker.” 2
  • And the U.S. strategy, while drawing some verbal fire from China, has yet to be tested in a serious way. That might happen if, for example, the Philippines' ongoing showdown with Beijing over contested shoals in the South China Sea were to deteriorate into a military conflict that invoked U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty obligations to Manila.
  • Washington's intentions aside, U.S. political gridlock, fiscal deficits and slow economic growth compared to China raise doubts in the region about American staying power. "The United States needs lots of partners because its own capabilities are in a sense in relative decline," 1


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