The Right US Pacific Strategy?
Image Credit: US Navy

The Right US Pacific Strategy?


For much of the past couple of decades, the Persian Gulf region has been seen as the US national security policy hot spot. But in recent months especially a series of events have underscored how quickly this is changing. And these events beg an important question—is the United States’ security strategy moving quickly enough to keep up?

Trouble on the Korean Peninsula is nothing new, but relations between North and South Korea have continued to deteriorate in the aftermath of the sinking of the South Korean warship the Cheonan, in which 46 sailors lost their lives. South Korea says an investigation proves the vessel was sunk by a North Korean torpedo, although Pyongyang has dismissed the incident as ‘a conspiratorial farce and charade orchestrated by the US imperialists and the south Korean puppet forces.’

Indeed, North Korea has continued to ratchet up the rhetoric. In June, it accused the US of taking ‘various types of heavy weapons’ into the demilitarized zone around Panmunjom and called the incident a ‘premeditated provocation aimed to spark off a serious military conflict.’ The same day, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry referred to recently declassified US documents referencing a planned nuclear attack by the US against North Korea in 1969 in the aftermath of an incident involving a US EC-121 military aircraft and suggested there’d been no change in US policy.

Last month, North Korea reportedly went as far as to threaten to use nuclear weapons in response to joint US/South Korea exercises in the Sea of Japan, while this month its forces fired 110 artillery rounds into the Yellow Sea in response to another South Korean exercise. Although were no reports of the shells striking targets, North Korea had still made its point—Seoul is within range of North Korea’s artillery and it wouldn’t need to resort to nuclear weapons to wreck havoc on its neighbour if it decided to do so.

But it’s the United States’ increasingly turbulent ties with China that have been stealing most of the headlines.

During a press conference given while attending a regional security conference in Vietnam in July, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton emphasized the US had a ‘deepening engagement with Southeast Asia.’ And, in remarks that angered China, Clinton addressed territorial conflicts over the Spratly and Paracel Islands. Arguing that the US didn’t take sides in the dispute, she went on to say that it supported freedom of navigation and suggested the competing parties should ‘pursue their territorial claims and accompanying rights to maritime space in accordance with the UN Convention  on the Law of the Sea.’

The comments earned an angry response from China, whose foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, stated, ‘The seemingly impartial remarks were in effect an attack on China and were designed to give the international community a wrong impression that the situation in the South China Sea is a cause for grave concern.’

March 21, 2012 at 01:17

Au Yeung, MD and Executive Vice President for Oracle’s Asia Pacific Division explains that he sees IT spend deetniifly on the rise over the next 3 years. “There is a pretty obvious change of sentiment from last year to this year. Last year people

Gail Harris
October 27, 2010 at 03:35

All of this (the Chinese military Modernization) has made US defense analysts nervous and on edge, especially since most of the Chinese recent developments, of which includes the development of the world’s first anti-ship ballistic missile. These are aircraft carrier busters, battle ship and cruise ship busters, which appear to be aimed at defeating a US threat in Japan and South Korea. Additionally, the Chinese have developed a very potent cyber warfare capability of shutting down all of the electronics we as a military relies on so heavily almost certainly bring our army to its knees and making a war inevitable. Thus creating the more likely than not circumstantial outcome of regional or global nuclear war.

September 3, 2010 at 13:13

No one can see China for what it has been doing – “expansionism”. First, Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Macau, then comes the Taiwan dispute, Aksai Chin & Arunchal Pradesh (disputed with India) and here comes the South China Sea haggle. The sad fact is global strategists still can’t see things for what they are! If one can’t decipher the pacific problem, all strategies will be pacific (pun intended). China has brilliantly managed their “peaceful rise” diplomacy and made a big fool off of global strategists all over. There is no such thing. China will continue to shamelessly proliferate and do as it pleases, and even more so with its newfound financial clout. The rest of us can thumb our noses and keep deliberating on yet another pacific strategy with a looming checkmate. Given the history of superbly clever cloaking of China’s policies, my personal prediction is that China will not stop at becoming an Asian hegemon or a world hegemon, which it is destined to become anyway. The US maybe a hegemon today but it is not a true superpower, but China will become both in a real sense. Given all projections, not a single regional or world power or even an alliance of world powers will be able to contain China in the future. Once China gets there which it will eventually, one can expect China to play smart games and take over regions in the Asia-Pacific, and further expand its powers so dramatically that none would be able to challenge it in a thousand years. Now that’s what I call a strategy! I’ve already marked everything from Japan to Australia as China in my futuristic looking world map. Fareed Zakaria has feared that “No one wants to live in a Chinese world order”, and hence a multi-polar world order would be a better proposition. Perhaps that’s his Kissinger pipe dream and these folks should be prepared for rude shocks from China sooner or later and there’s nothing anyone can or would be able to do about it. Given the continued impotence of global think-tanks and ground realities, my forecasts have a high probability of coming true. All those greedy Chinese communists should be congratulated for what they have accomplished so far and what they will in the coming decades. I’m going to teach Mandarin to my children to be better prepared for the world order that is to come in the 21st century.

August 28, 2010 at 02:55


China’s claim of South China Sea stemmed all the way back from the 1930′s pre-communist-regime days. In fact, both PRC and Taiwan are in remarkable agreement over how they view SCS sovereignty.

Other Southeast countries, on the other hand, are the real late comers to the SCS dispute, of which you accused China of. They started wading in into this issue in the 70′s and 80′s. By pure coincedence, that’s also when oil and gas were discovered there.

August 25, 2010 at 00:34

Indeed, and full of decent intel.

The main question (somewhat simplified) regarding China is whether or not the US chooses to approach that country as an “enemy” or as another normal country. The consequence for the “enemy” approach I feel would create another Cold War type situation with both sides trying to develop weapons to best the other. The alternative situation might recreate the historical “balance of powers” in early 20th century Europe. The difference is that the “Cold War” strategy elevates the US and China into rival superpowers which effect international relations entirely while the other approach is more multilateral.

August 25, 2010 at 00:32

One can hardly call it “defensive operation” by ramming unarmed, tiny fishing boats with warships pretended to be sea administrative ships. China’s position in the Southeast Asian Sea is quite different from the Soviet Union, which despite its strength, never intended to challenge the US Navy in order to draw the line of interests. China did just that. China has overreached by claiming nearly the entire sea that clearly belongs to most of the surrounding countries and international traffic.

By claiming that the US is butting into China’s sphere of interest is a false premise to justify China’s aggression in the SA Sea. The US Navy had been traversing that sea for most of the 20th century. Fishermen from all the surrounding countries have made a living on that sea for centuries. China has absolutely no sovereign rights in the region except for those it dreamt up in order to make the case for outright invasion. China wants the resources under that sea, first and foremost, challenging the US Navy for the ownership (which the US Navy doesn’t even claim to have) is just part of that play. The US needs to remain vigilant and protects what is its own right, as well as the rights of all those who share the sea in the region.

August 24, 2010 at 22:34

a good and unbiased report.

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