The ICAS Lectures


The East Asian Security Environment and US Foreign Policy

Steven Bucci

ICAS Spring Symposium

May 10, 2013 Friday 1:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Rayburn Office Building Room B318
United States House of Repreesentatives Capitol Hill, Washington, DC 20515

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

Biographic sketch & Links: Steven Bucci

The East Asian Security Environment and US Foreign Policy

Steven Bucci

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 change.

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 political posturing.

Europe will continue to draw our attention as well - Russia is also resurgent and Sec State Kerry is a confirmed EuroPhile.

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 Asia?

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 addressed.

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 overtly.

We cannot forget, or ever take for granted that teamwork in every area.

- defense
- diplomacy
- economics
- cyber

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?

  1. Upgrade intelligence efforts all around - emphasis of tech capabilities
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 fantasy.

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