The East Asian Security Environment and US Foreign Policy
It is a pleasure and an honor to be here. I thank ICAS
and Sang Joo for inviting me.
My background is as a Special Forces officer and a
human intelligence collection. Have worked extensively
with the ROK military several times, including in combat.
Not nearly as qualified to discuss these issues as the
others sitting up here. The good news is that with such a
learned group, any question that is asked that I cannot
answer, I know someone up here will know the answer!
In some ways Asia has always been important to US
ForPol. WW II, helping defend ROK, Viet Nam War,
Taiwan, Japan, present day ROK, etc.
In other ways, we have always taken it for granted - we
are Euro centric, then ME, 9/11 happened and now we
focus there all the time, etc
So in a certain way the Administration's so-called Pivot
toward Asia is well over due. The portion of the
population of the world, the economic markets and
strength, and the potential dangers all warrant the
Unfortunately, to a certain extent it is also a farce. To
truly do justice to this region, from a security stand point,
we would require our entire military, leaving nothing for
other hot spots in the world.
I would be a liar if I told you that the US will NOT
continue to focus a great deal of attention on the ME -
that is not going away for US ForPol. Syria, Benghazi,
Iran rising, etc all show us that the wishful thinking of
"The Tides of War are receding" crowd is nothing but
Europe will continue to draw our attention as well - Russia
is also resurgent and Sec State Kerry is a confirmed
Africa and LatAm will remain economy of force theaters,
but both have the potential to become much bigger
problems without care on our part.
So if we cannot ignore the above issues, what do we do in
In tight economic times, we need realistic leadership
that sets priorities, and not just promulgates slogans.
We also need stanch allies.
We have some major allies in East Asia, particularly
ROK, and Japan. We have many other good friends
(Australia Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, etc), but without
The two, we are sunk.
We, the US, have to do a better job supporting and
enabling our allies. Particularly this tripartite group of the
US, ROK, and Japan must continue as a team, forged in
wars, one as adversaries, and one as partners, now we
stand as a team.
The threats are real, North Korea and China must be
We need to modernize and strengthen our forces,
particularly our air and naval capabilities, and assist in
this process for our allies.
Let me emphasize this, Japan and ROK are NOT clients,
and are frankly NOT dependent on the US, in anyway.
Both have superb militaries, and excellent military leaders.
We are, again, a team. The visit by President Park shows
how capable ROK really is. The North East Asia Initiative
is exactly the sort of initiative we should be supporting
We cannot forget, or ever take for granted that
teamwork in every area.
All must be synchronized.
Threats - (covered by Mr. Bossco)
Today China is trying desperately to expand their
influence and economic reach. They are doing a heck
of a job, and they are not reluctant to at least imply a little
muscle as they do it. (Or a whole bunch of it.)
NK, as always is unpredictable, or perhaps very
predictable in their erratic behavior. They are a wild
card to whom it is very dangerous to impute our values,
ideas, or decision making processes. Do that and we will
always get burned. Our allies are a key here, providing
insights Americans might overlook.
What should the US and its allies do with regard to the
region and to these challenges?
- Upgrade intelligence efforts all around - emphasis of
- Beef up missile defenses - Aegis upgrades and
numbers (boast phase), East Coast site now, expand
GBI now, no more foolishness of trading away
capabilities to make adversaries feel good (Putin & Kim
Jung Un), or because we still believe Arms Control
agreements restrain dictators
- Continue to work to contain NK. Be strong, and do not
give in to tantrums and theatrics. This clearly requires
solidarity among the team. It keeps the peace until the
Koreas can someday unite. Perhaps add enabling
cyber means to increase the pressure on this regime.
- Work to move China to a place where they act as a
responsible player on the world stage. Their economic
capabilities cannot be ignored, and will not go away.
If they can be weened off the power plays, IP theft,
and bellicose rhetoric, they can move from adversary
to competitor, from rival to contributor. If that can be
achieved, the benefits would be great indeed.
- Turn back the cuts to defense and aid that are foolish,
and completely disconnected to any rational
strategic thought - just saying "we'll depend more on
our allies" is not a plan. We are all under economic
stress, we must face it with courage and solidarity, not
Is a refocusing on Asia timely and needed? Yes. Can the
US do it alone? Absolutely not. We need each other
now more than ever.
I look forward to your questions
This page last updated May 15, 2013 jdb