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May 2013

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Sideways: America's Pivot and Its Military Bases in the Asia Pacific
By Felix Chang, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Research Institute
http://www.fpri.org/articles/2013/04/sideways-americas-pivot-and-its-military-bases-asia-pacific
Reviewed by John Handley, Vice President, American Diplomacy

Felix Chang’s ongoing research concentrates on military, economic, and energy security issues in Asia, and he frequently writes for American Interest, National Interest, Orbis, and Parameters. Even so, the lead to this article is a bit disingenuous in that in states: “… America’s strategic ‘pivot’ or ‘rebalancing’ toward the Asia-Pacific has taken on a renewed importance with the recent North Korean military threats against not only its neighbors in Northeast Asia, but also the United States.  Over the last half decade, Washington has trumpeted its foreign policy shift toward the region; but it has become increasingly clear that the military resources it has devoted to the region have not kept pace with its political engagement.”  

The author then demonstrates at length that what the U.S. government is calling a new policy of “balancing” America’s presence in the Asia-Pacific actually began well over a decade ago and includes no new bases, just the redistribution of a rather small number of navy, marine, air force, and army assets.    

This is a very well written, interesting, and lucid article that first discusses the varied reasons for the drawdown of U.S. forces in South Korea and Japan. The author then addresses why some U.S. forces were redeployed to Guam and Australia as well as to the Philippines and Singapore. The relatively small numbers, as the author mentioned, do not constitute a “pivot” and fall far short of “balancing.” More concerned with China’s expansionist policies, the countries in the Asian-Pacific region are now welcoming an increased U.S. military presence. Even Hanoi has opened a renovated Cam Ranh Bay Naval Base to the U.S. and other foreign navies. The author also expects that Brunei and Malaysia may soon reach out to the U.S. in their efforts to keep China from encroach­ing further south of the James Shoal.

The major concerns with these U.S. redeployments are their lack of mutual support followed by the potential problem of having Guam within missile range of China. The author suggests the U.S. renovate another air base and anchorage in the central Pacific, such as Palau and Chuuk (Turk). Chang ends by stating again that the current governments announced changes do not represent a pivot or a balancing towards the Asia-Pacific, but rather the continuation of a strategic policy that began early in the Bush administration.bluestar

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