Analysis & Opinions - The National Interest

Reassuring Jittery Asian Allies

| Apr. 04, 2014

The Obama administration must refocus on a key geostrategic imperative: stopping the erosion of allied confidence in American reliability. The brouhaha over last year’s decision by the United States to adhere to China’s air-defense identification zone in East China Sea obscured this key issue. The dust having since settled, it is worth revisiting the facts. At the time, the efforts to persuade Tokyo that informing China of U.S. civilian flights was an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) decision reaffirmed the instincts of our Japanese friends that Washington could not be relied upon. No wonder that Tokyo's new military strategy (euphemistically termed "proactive pacifism") calls for acquisition of drones and amphibious assault vehicles.

It is time for the Obama administration to concentrate with a laser-like precision on an urgent strategic challenge: not the FAA, but PAA—perceptions of American allies. By tacitly acquiescing to China's air defense zone, the United States deepened the pervasive perception among our Asian allies—grounded in a long history of U.S. ambivalent behavior towards its friends in the region—that it is an unreliable security patron, increasing their temptation to explore alternative security assurance options, including nuclear weapons. If Beijing moves to establish a second air defense zone over the South China Sea, this will be yet another litmus test of the U.S. reliability, and our allies will be watching Washington's response carefully....

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For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kogan, Eugene B..“Reassuring Jittery Asian Allies.” The National Interest, April 4, 2014.