September 06, 2013

Conference looks at US role in Asia-Pacific

Featuring Dr. Patrick M. Cronin

Source: Pacific Daily News

Journalist Michelle Conerly

U.S. national security experts and intelligence analysts met yesterday to begin a two-day conference to discuss the U.S. political and military role in the Asia-Pacific theater, including Guam.

The event, being held at the Hyatt Regency Guam, was organized by the Guam-US-Asia Security Alliance.

It's a local group, formed in late 2011, that supports the Guam military buildup, and which has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby Congress.

Strengthen presence

Patrick Cronin, a senior adviser and senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, noted in his morning keynote address at "The Guam Roundtable" that the United States must make a better effort to strengthen its political presence in the region and that Guam is the perfect location to do so.

"Asia-Pacific is going to play a bigger and more prominent role in shaping this world," Cronin said, "(and) Guam is right in the middle."

Openness, cooperation

He said there needs to be open access to the economies and trade between countries and also military cooperation based on fair and agreed-upon rules. Cronin also suggested that the U.S. engage in relationships with more partners and refashion some of its alliances.

Cronin said the U.S. should support efforts to make the Philippines more independent, to provide the administration with confidence and security in the face of a potential threat by a neighboring country.

When it comes to more controversial administrations, such as North Korea and China, Cronin stressed that the U.S. should capitalize on what he considers their weaknesses to move toward a more prosperous Asia.

A good portion of Cronin's speech focused on China, its rising political presence and power, and how the country is not afraid to push the limits to flaunt its military power in the Asia-Pacific region.

But, he said, the United States response to "rising China" should not necessarily be direct, but through the relationships it has and will have with surrounding administrations.

"Step by step, the U.S. has to be (there,) engaging with every country in the region," he said.

Military and commerce

Cronin also warned that if the United States begins a military buildup in the Asia-Pacific theater without also building its business contacts in the region, countries will question the country's motivations for such a heavy military presence.

During the midday keynote speech, Guam Del. Madeleine Bordallo said, although Congress has its reservations about the Guam military buildup, it's important to show The Asia Pacific region why the U.S. should have a strong presence.

"The Senate has cut Guam funding, in part, because they don't understand the totality of the strategy," she said.

Seeds of doubt

Bordallo said an implementation plan should be drafted to iron out the details of the strategic maneuver.

The delegate said she also is concerned that congressional inaction and hesitation to move troops from Okinawa to Guam has planted seeds of doubt in the minds of United States allies.

And with the United States government considering taking action in terms of the recent atrocities going on in Syria, Bordallo hopes our "Asian allies" don't question the United States' efforts to follow through with the rebalance.

The conference continues today.

  • Dr. Patrick M. Cronin

    Senior Advisor and Senior Director, Asia-Pacific Security Program

    Patrick M. Cronin is a Senior Advisor and Senior Director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Previously, he was the Senior ...