United States Engagement in the Asia Pacific: Perspectives from Asia

by Yoichiro Sato and See Seng Tan


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This study brings together Asian and Asia-based experts of international relations and U.S. foreign policy to present diverse Asian views about preferred modes of U.S. engagement in the region and compare their views with U.S. interests in the region—a prerequisite exercise to truly multilateral regional security governance.

With the rise of Chinese power in absolute and relative terms over the next decades as a key driving factor of the international relations in the Asia Pacific, the United States has announced its “Rebalance to Asia” (previously referred as “Pivot to Asia”) strategy. Asian responses, perceptions, and even interpretations of the U.S. strategy have been diverse. Misconceptions of the U.S. strategy can be attributed to the built-in contradictions among its objectives, deliberate ambiguities left by the architects of the strategy, mismatch between the stated strategy and actual policy implementations during the last three years, and subjective reading by the Asian countries through the lens of their own interests. This book will illuminate the diversity of Asian responses and perceptions and analyze the underlying reasons of the diversity.

The overarching framework of analysis for this book is the very dilemma of alliances—abandonment and entrapment—which “hedging” aims at evading. “Abandonment” fear is primarily of the junior partner of an alliance that its senior partner may not come to its aid in crisis. Meanwhile, “entrapment” fear works both ways. The United States may drag its allies into its conflict against a third party, but U.S. allies may also drag the United States into their regional conflicts in which the United States has no direct or significant stake. The Asian choices of their strategic responses to the U.S. Rebalancing will be described and analyzed through the lens of the perceived balance between the abandonment and entrapment fears as well as other historical and domestic factors unique to each Asian country.

The reading of the U.S. strategy by Asian countries is a subjective matter, and their interests likely influence their analysis and consequently strategies. It is not the aim of this volume to establish well defined “cause-and-effect” chain between the U.S. strategy and Asian strategies, but thick descriptions have enabled some chapter authors to identify reciprocal relations between the two. While China’s growth is the most important driver of the changing strategic landscape in the Asia Pacific and the new U.S. strategy, the new U.S. strategy inevitably influence the Chinese strategy, which in turn triggers a chain reaction of strategic revisions in Asian countries.

This book is essential reading for scholars in Asian politics, U.S. foreign policy, international relations as well as for policy makers.


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