October 25, 2017

Trump’s Asian Security Dilemma

By Richard Fontaine

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.

  • Reports
    • January 8, 2020
    Total Competition

    China’s coercive attempts to wield hegemonic control over the South China Sea threaten the sovereignty of Southeast Asian states and international freedom of the seas, both of...

    By Patrick M. Cronin & Ryan Neuhard

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Policy
    • December 27, 2019
    The U.S.-Chinese Trade War Just Entered Phase 2

    The Trump administration’s “phase one” trade deal with China may mark the end of the first chapter of the trade conflict between the United States and China, which saw Washing...

    By Peter Harrell

  • Video
    • December 19, 2019
    CNAS: Bold Ideas for National Security

    This year, CNAS experts brought bold ideas and bipartisan cooperation to the national security conversation. In 2020, the CNAS team will continue tackling the biggest security...

    By Susanna V. Blume, Kara Frederick, Kayla M. Williams, Loren DeJonge Schulman, Richard Fontaine, Kristine Lee, Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Ely Ratner, Paul Scharre, Elizabeth Rosenberg & Carrie Cordero

  • Reports
    • December 18, 2019
    Crossed Wires

    The United States’ current diplomacy with North Korea has enduring implications for its strategic competition with China....

    By Kristine Lee, Daniel Kliman & Joshua Fitt

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia