Asia Overreacts to U.S. Military Pivot
Image Credit: U.S. Navy

Asia Overreacts to U.S. Military Pivot


Asian countries have reacted strongly to the Pentagon’s new “Defense Strategic Guidance” issued earlier this month. Arguing that the United States finds itself at a “strategic turning point” with the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the end of the defense buildup that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the report calls for rebalancing U.S. military capabilities by functional and geographic areas, including by “pivoting” U.S. national security efforts eastward toward Asia.

“U.S. economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia,” the Guidance affirms, “creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities” that will lead the U.S. military to “rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region.” 

More colorfully, Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, explained during the briefing marking the Guidance’s roll out: “All of the trends, demographic trends, geopolitical trends, economic trends and military trends are shifting toward the Pacific. So our strategic challenges in the future will largely emanate out of the Pacific region, but also the littorals of the Indian Ocean.”

The Guidance therefore advocates a lasting “strategic partnership” with India, reaffirms U.S. security commitments to Japan and South Korea, and declares U.S. intent to invest in the capabilities required to ensure U.S. access to the global commons and freedom of maritime movement despite efforts by some countries (i.e. China and Iran) to deny the United States access to these areas.

The Asian allies of the United States welcomed the Pentagon’s new Guidance. At a Seoul news briefing, Kim Kwan-bin, South Korean Deputy Minister for National Defense Policy, said that “The U.S. defense ministry will put boosting economic and security benefit of the Asia-Pacific region as its first priority, and will recognize South Korea and other allies as the core nations for security in the Asia-Pacific region and strengthen security cooperation.” 

Chinese analysts received the new strategy less warmly. A commentary in the English-language Global Times said that the new Strategic Guidance indicated that China was “a firm strategic target of the U.S.” and that Beijing’s “efforts to improve Sino-US relations have proved incapable of offsetting U.S. worries over its rise.”

A Xinhua commentary warned against U.S. “muscle flexing” in Asian regional disputes: “the United States is welcome to make more contribution to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, but it’s possible militarism will cause a lot of ill will and meet with strong opposition in the world's most dynamic region.” In elaborating, the commentary explained that “the United States has the greatest potential to secure world peace and stability, but it also has the greatest power to create chaos. With power comes responsibility, so the United States should exercise the utmost caution in the use of its military forces.” 

Asian readers of these texts need to bear certain facts in mind. These national security documents, issued regularly by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and other U.S. government agencies, have multiple audiences within the United States (government agencies, the Congress, and analysts) as well as abroad (foreign allies, partners, and adversaries). They serve both formal and informal functions. Within the United States, they offer official policy and program guidance as well as unofficial tools for bureaucratic infighting by providing documents from which actors can cite supporting statements in their speeches and other statements in budget battles with other agencies. Overseas, they communicate implicit messages to foreign audiences. When they appear in a presidential election year, like this one, you can be fairly certain that White House political advisers had some impact on its drafting as well.

In essence, the Guidance reflects three main developments: the U.S. defense budget is stabilizing due budgetary constraints; the major U.S. wars of the past decade, Afghanistan and Iraq, have or are winding down; and Asia is rising in relative importance in the world, and therefore for the United States, due to its growing share of global population, trade, GDP and other assets.

February 1, 2012 at 15:04

It is for the Filipino’s. Understand those who stage the rallies are usually the Communist Party of the Philippines “legal fronts” so their absence says a lot on how worried Filipino’s are.

February 1, 2012 at 15:00

countryman? they’re? I do not think you are really who you say you are.

I am a Filipino and I don’t like how China is acting.

Dumaguete City, Neg Or

February 1, 2012 at 14:58

@dave thats why in china they dont allow mass anyone to speak out against the regime.

January 31, 2012 at 14:12

Cyrus14 -”We don’t hold grudges unlike the Chinese, we forgave Spain, US, and Japan. We are not like you Chinese who keeps on ranting about what happened centuries ago as if it has any weight in the present.”

I think you are describing the Americans. They are unforgiving and never let go any international slights. Their motto is “vengeance” .. “get even”.

Recall the killing of Obama bin Laden, the dethoning, Capture, trial, and execution of Saddam Hussein, the bombing of Libya and the killing of Mohd. Gaddafi, The destruction of a small Cambodian patrol craft by American warships in Ford’s time, the trade moves against a Chinese oil trading firm recently just because Beijing refuse to support Washington’s embargo or sanctions against Teheran’s oil exports, the covert and overt removal of the Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama just because his foreign policy approach was not to the liking of Washington, the manipulation of election of hardliner Lee Myung-bak to power just because Washington did not like Kim Dae-jung and his successor’s Korean Sunshine policy, the sinking of the Cheonan by American submarine, and many, many more. The only nation which humiliated Washington and got away to date, no matter the current U.S. embargo and threat of war, is Iran.

So, kindly do not over-rate the American goverment. Not only are they unforgiving and black-hearted but they meddle and intervene in other countries’ affairs in the first place, and use war as a threat always to back up their nefarious interference.

January 31, 2012 at 13:51

Hmm .. absentee landlords doesn’t mean the territories can be claimed by anyone. Perhaps the rule of law is quite meaningless to the corrupt politicians and tin-pot generals in the Philippines? Rest assure their “patriotic defence” is for their own personal (future commerical) interests only. Not Filipinos.

January 31, 2012 at 13:40

“Opinions” or slanders and hate-filled rants? Sounds more like abuse of freedom of speech. And Dave tells people to shut-up and “get lost!” Obviously no defender of freedom of speech, this “Dave”.

January 31, 2012 at 11:13

What’s problem with China when US establish it’s new military base in it’s alliance country to protect it’s ally if the host country and US both agree.
Basically, it’s none of China bussiness no matter how close the host country is to China. Because the host country isn’t a vasal country of China as it thing, event it’s much smaller than China it’s still independance one.
So the problem for China is not they are agree open for US to establish military base on their country but WHY. Look up your 9 dot and still can’t answer it then suck on this.

January 31, 2012 at 02:01

This is a forum for free speech, so please respect other people’s opinion here!He just speaks out the truth!If you feel annoyed then just get lost!!

Annoyed Reader
January 30, 2012 at 20:46

Is his what the Diplomat Comments section is for? Mindless and hate-filled rants? Freedom is fine but not the right to slander as one please. Who is he keeper of freedom and human rights?

Annoyed Reader
January 30, 2012 at 20:41

Are you authorized to speak for Tibet? Who are you? Let us see your credentials.

Annoyed reader
January 30, 2012 at 20:37

What relevance is this rant here? If you have a problem with China, your girlfriend or your parents, kindly make an appointment with your psychologist. Don’t saddle us with your problem.

Wendell Lotilla
January 30, 2012 at 20:35

As long as China does not bully us in our own backyard.

Shih Huang Ti
January 30, 2012 at 15:05


January 27, 2012 at 4:08 pm

You know what is the great problem here in the Philippines?
People like you. Posting at this website without any ideas on the topic and telling that Filipinos are boastful is considered ignorance.

Try to look at your country and see the beauty in it.

I am really ashamed. Go back to school and try to arrange your mindset.

January 30, 2012 at 13:59

Liberty considers himself “educated”! His narrow-minded statement belies his overrated vision of himself. Aberated, more likely. He advertises his own lack of education better than anyone else can.

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