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War College Professor Urges Examining U.S.-Asian Relationships

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2004 – America needs to examine relations with nations in Asia and must truly reach out across the region and take into account regional sensibilities as it crafts a new policy for the 21st century, said Jonathan D. Pollack.

Pollack, a professor at the Naval War College, spoke at the 2004 Eisenhower National Security Conference here today. The theme for this year's conference is "National Security for the 21st Century Balancing our Essential Requirements."

Pollack, giving his own opinion and not DoD policy, said not enough attention has been given to regional sensibilities, especially in regard to China. He said in the early part of the Bush administration, officials characterized with China as a potential "peer competitor." Pollack contends that with the war on terror, that characterization has fallen by the wayside.

China, he said, has increased its political, military and especially its economic influence in the region. All countries in the region "recognize China's growing weight and all seek normal relations" with the country.

China, he said, is an "arrived regional power." Its influence extends from Northeast Asia as proved by Beijing hosting the Six-power Talks on North Korea's nuclear program -- to Southeast Asia, to South Asia and to Central Asia.

Countries of the region are working to maintain normal, peaceful relations with China. He said the countries of Asia regard their relationship with the fastest-growing economy in the region as the prime factor in the foreign policy. Any Sino-American accommodation, he said, must keep this in mind.

Pollack said there is no alliance structure in region comparable to NATO. All relations are bilateral U.S.-Japan, U.S.-Korea, U.S.-Thailand, U.S.- Philippines etc. and they are configured to address different circumstances. The United States is the major partner in each of these bilateral treaties.

But the changes in the region especially development and democratization mean the nature of any relationship must change. "The challenge for them and for us is to recraft mutual defense alliances," he said.

He contends all nations in the region are wary of a regional alliance the United States favors. Pollack used the U.S.-Korea Treaty as an example. "The ground is shifting on the peninsula," Pollack said. The most important changes on the peninsula are occurring in South, not North, Korea. The United States must take into consideration the political realignment in the south along generational lines. He said this will affect South Korea's defense policy, China and, of course, the U.S.-Korea alliance.

Facing the alliance is the threat from the north and the U.S.-Korean decision to withdraw 12,000 U.S. troops from the country by the end of 2005.

On one side, the United States saw the old configuration as a leftover of Cold War. With the war on terrorism, DoD cannot afford permanent deployment of forces to Korea. The thinking in Washington is that North Korea can be deterred by other capabilities most notably air assets.

Viewing all aspects of the alliance, and working with allies in the region, the United States must recraft alliances to face the new threats.

In Pollack's view are some questions that must be studied: How does a regional strategy include Australia, Japan and Singapore? How does Russia and China fit in to a Pacific strategy? What effect will North Korea's missile capabilities and possible nuclear capability mean to the region?

Pollack urges officials in the region and the United States to consider the answers to them.

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