October 25, 2017

Trump’s Asian Security Dilemma

President Trump’s upcoming five-country Asian tour takes place amid deepening worries about security trends across the region. North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs menace American allies and the homeland itself. China’s combination of ambition and improving military capabilities threatens to upend the balance of power. Add to these concerns the trafficking of narcotics, maritime piracy, increased cyberattacks and the need to respond to large-scale natural disasters. The demand for U.S. attention and resources in Asia is increasing—just as U.S. defense spending has been falling in recent years.

America thus faces a dilemma. It wishes to preserve an Asian balance of power, reinforce the rules-based regional order, avoid conflict and maintain stable economic relations with China—all at the same time, and all at acceptable cost. Yet, the previously privileged position of the United States in the region is under new pressure. A congressionally-mandated review of U.S. defense strategy in the Pacific last year concluded: “Actions by countries in the region routinely challenge the credibility of U.S. security commitments, and U.S. capability development is not keeping pace with challenges by potential competitors, resulting in the regional balance of military power shifting against the United States.”

Read the full op-ed in The National Interest.

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