10:29 AM, Aug 5, 2015 • By ALEXANDER BENARD
John Kerry’s visit to Asia this week – like Ashton Carter’s last month – is designed to offer reassurance that America’s commitment to the region remains unwavering in the face of increased Chinese aggression. Yet despite these visits, leaders in the region have profound doubts whether the United States is serious about standing up to China. The Obama administration has caused those doubts through its passive, anodyne language. To inspire confidence and give meaning to the oft-derided “Asia Pivot”, the administration must dramatically strengthen its rhetoric and frame China’s aggression in moral terms.
In the South China Sea, in waters between the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam, China has been turning reefs into full-fledged islands replete with long runways, sophisticated radar equipment, and facilities for storage and living quarters. In the same area, China is asserting control over international airspace. Chinese naval vessels have rammed Vietnamese fishing boats, and China has placed oil-drilling rigs in waters claimed by Vietnam. Chinese aggression also extends eastward, towards Japan, where the country has regularly entered Japanese waters near the disputed Senkaku Islands.
None of this, of course, has gone unnoticed by the United States. Under the Asia Pivot, the Obama administration has increased the number of marines stationed in Australia. In 2013 it flew several B-52s through airspace that had been improperly claimed by China. It has arranged for the Philippines to grant the U.S. navy access to several bases. And the United States is currently considering sending warships and military planes through the South China Sea to protest Chinese land reclamation there – a threat on which the United States should certainly follow through.
All of these practical countermeasures, however, have been neutered by the administration’s weak and feckless rhetoric. Take Secretary Carter’s statement while in Vietnam last month that “the United States opposes militarization and the creation of tensions in the South China Sea, even though we are not a claimant to the South China Sea.” Or President Obama, who recently said that, “it may be that some of [China’s] claims are legitimate, but they shouldn’t just try to establish that based on throwing elbows and pushing people out of the way.”
The administration is speaking so softly that it is undermining its own stick – while at the same time failing to create any sense of urgency to conclude initiatives like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a strategically important free trade agreement that is again stalled after several days of unsuccessful talks, or transfers of military technologies to U.S. allies in the region.
President Obama’s soft rhetoric and caveats – mirrored by the words of Secretary Carter – suggest that he thinks he owes China some deference because the territories in question are part of the country’s notional sphere of influence. But that is not the right conceptual framework, and certainly not how the president should talk about the issue publicly. Rather, the administration needs to forcefully frame this issue in terms of values and international norms of conduct.
The United States stands for freedom of navigation and for the unfettered use of international airspace. It believes in solving territorial disputes through arbitration, not use of force and unauthorized land reclamations. It rejects the notion that large countries can trample on the rights of other countries in their neighborhood, simply because those countries are smaller. America’s disagreement with China is not about spheres of influence. It has to do with the fact that China is violating all of these bedrock principles – and doing so in a region that is vital to global commerce as well as international peace and security. The United States recognizes China’s behavior for what it is, and deems the behavior unacceptable.
President Obama would do well to consider giving a speech touting these important U.S. values from on board a U.S. aircraft carrier sailing right through the international waters of the South China Sea.
5:01 PM, Aug 4, 2015 • By ERIN MUNDAHL
Americans have long been skeptical of the liberal arts. Frequently this takes the form of a discussion of whether a degree in history or literature is “worth it” in a purely economic sense. Annual reports highlight the top-earning college majors, subtly encouraging students to forgo a class in literature or history in favor of something useful, like nursing or engineering.
Perhaps it’s a reflection of our innate American pragmatism.
11:29 AM, Jun 29, 2015 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
South Korean President Park Geun-hye may have avoided walking into a potential minefield in postponing her recent Washington visit due to the MERS outbreak in her home country.
Overhauling U.S. strategy in Asia May 18, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 34 • By DAN BLUMENTHAL and WILLIAM INBODEN
At the top of our next president’s task list will be rescuing American foreign policy from the wreckage of the Obama years. The prevailing headlines detail a grim litany of new threats, each one emanating from an Obama administration policy failure.
11:06 AM, Dec 22, 2014 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
As the historically minded will recall, back in 2012 the Obama administration declared that the United States “will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific.” That was the guidance the commander in chief gave to the U.S. military, the idea being that since, the peace of Europe was eternal and self-sustaining, and the Middle East was a mess made by George Bush, that the most important mission for the 21st century was to keep an eye on the Chinese, the “rising” great power.
10:21 AM, Dec 17, 2014 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
Alarm bells have gone off in Beijing, in Moscow, and even among some so-called “realists” in the West. They caution that the pending U.N. General Assembly consideration of an EU-Japan joint resolution on North Korean human rights violations, scheduled for December 18-19, could push Pyongyang over the edge. Publicly censuring North Korea for its crimes against humanity, they warn, might lead to a fourth nuclear test and even potentially trigger another military confrontation on the Korean peninsula. These voices, as a result, advocate continued silence despite overwhelming evidence of massive human rights violations, about which the U.N. Commission of Inquiry (COI) report wrote the following: “The gravity, scale, and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the modern world.”
12:08 PM, Nov 14, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama held a townhall today in Burma where he was met with signs that read "Reform is fake" and "Change." He commented on the signs before getting on with the program.
5:14 PM, Jul 1, 2014 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
In 2007, during his first term as Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe penned a work titled Toward a Beautiful Country, My Vision for Japan. The recent re-examination of the 1993 Kono Statement on the Imperial Japanese military’s use of “comfort women” during World War II (a euphemism for sex slaves), which was presented to the Japanese Diet on June 20, is the antithesis of the actions of “a beautiful country.” It represents a backward step, reopening a dark chapter in 20th-century history, which most of the world woul
10:25 AM, Apr 23, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The State Department is warning of a protest in Malaysia on Friday, one day before President Obama is expected to arrive there on Saturday.
9:37 AM, Apr 16, 2014 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
President Obama is about to undertake a fence-mending mission to America’s Asian allies in Tokyo, Seoul, and Manila. The U.S. “pivot” to Asia is coming under renewed scrutiny following Beijing’s announcement of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) for the East China Sea in November, Pyongyang’s recent firing of two midrange missiles into waters near Japan and South Korea, and regional whispers questioning American resolve.
Jan 20, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 18 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
You would guess that an agreement between the United States and Japan to move a Marine air base from one location to another on Okinawa would be good news. And it is, for three reasons. First, because there has been opposition to relocating the base on the island, and negotiations had stalemated. And second, because the move is endorsed by Okinawa’s governor, who had initially opposed it.
9:01 AM, Dec 6, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
The press covering Joe Biden's trip Asia caught an unusually frank comment from the vice president. Biden, speaking about himself, reportedly said that his "profound insights on policy are vastly exaggerated, but we do have profound respect for the people of South Korea."
11:55 AM, Dec 3, 2013 • By GARY SCHMITT
Absolute coherence when it comes foreign policy is a rare thing. International relations will forever be a mix of principles, interests, circumstances, and necessities. But recognition of that fact doesn’t mean one has to jump to the opposite conclusion that foreign policy is simply a grab bag of decisions, lacking any coherence whatsoever. But, more and more, this appears to be the case when it comes to the Obama administration’s so-called “pivot” to Asia.
1:00 PM, Sep 13, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Barack Obama will be traveling to Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines, at the beginning of next, the White House announced today.
3:01 PM, Jul 1, 2013 • By REUBEN F. JOHNSON
On the first weekend in June and for the twelfth year in a row, senior foreign policy makers, military officials, politicians, and defense industry representatives flocked to an exclusive hotel resort in this Southeast Asian city-state for the Shangri-La Dialogue Asian Security Summit. The event now draws a Who’s Who of global military power personalities: Asian, European and U.S. defense ministers; regional military commanders, including a high-level delegation of strategists from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) military.