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Alliances for Peace: Building Trust and Cooperation

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 1996 – Like the World Wide Web, new defense ties are stretching around the globe. They're linking steadfast friends and former foes in Central and South America, throughout Europe, Central Asia and even Russia.

Now it's time to turn to the East, according to Defense Secretary William J. Perry. "I believe the time has come for the defense leaders of the AsiaPacific region to begin forming our own web of security ties," Perry said during a recent speech at the National Defense University here. He wants to convene a ministerial meeting of the AsiaPacific region modeled after one held last summer in Williamsburg, Va., by defense leaders of 33 Western Hemisphere nations.

Established democracies and newly independent nations are pulling together for security, Perry said. NATO's Partnership for Peace unites more than 40 European and Central Asian nations. Russia has also expressed intent to become a partner.

Perry invited 34 AsianPacific defense officials to Hawaii last September to attend ceremonies commemorating the 50th anniversary of World War II's end. The same weekend, U.S. Pacific Command opened The Asian Pacific Security Studies Center in Honolulu, where civilian and military officials of the region meet to discuss mutual security interests.

"I am always looking for ways to advance security dialogues among defense and military establishments all over the world and at all levels from sergeants to ministers of defense," Perry said. "I believe the web of official and personal ties these dialogues create build trust, understanding and cooperation."

During the Cold War, Perry said, the United States maintained peace through deterrence maintaining a strong nuclear arsenal, a large standing army in Europe and a powerful fleet in the Pacific. With the end of the Soviet Union, the United States has turned to a strategy of making friends and allies of former enemies.

In the Pacific, the strategy is based on alliances, confidence building, constructive engagement with China and the framework agreement with North Korea, Perry said. Alliances with Japan and South Korea are the linchpin of the region's stability, he said.

"Last year, the horrible [rape] in Okinawa became a catalyst for some in Japan to raise questions about the importance of the U.S. Japan alliance, with some calling it a relic of the Cold War." Perry said. "They are wrong. Both the United States and Japan know our close partnership is vital to the economic and political health of the region indeed, of the world."

Working together, Perry said, Japan and the United States have kept the lid on regional conflicts, guaranteed freedom of the seas and reduced the risk of prolieration of weapons of mass destruction.

China is a growing global player, Perry said. Continuing the 20year U.S. policy of engagement with China is vital, he said. As the world's most populous country with the fourth largest economy, China is a major military power and has an ambitious military modernization program. It also has nuclear weapons and a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council.

China is clearly a global power, not simply a regional one, Perry said. U.S. and Chinese interests will sometimes be in harmony and sometimes in conflict, he said.

"We believe through a healthy, honest dialogue, we can work together for our mutual benefit where our interests are in harmony, and we can work together to reduce tensions when our interests conflict," Perry said.

Engagement is a way to influence China to help curb rather than spread weapons of mass destruction, he said. It's also a way to open lines of communication with the Peoples Liberation Army, a major player in Chinese politics with significant influence on such issues as Taiwan, the South China Sea and proliferation, Perry said.

He believes firm diplomacy and dialogue are the best ways to change China. "Even when we strongly disagree with China, we cannot make our entire relationship hostage to a single issue," he said. "We still have security reasons for maintaining lines of communication."

The United States is not, however, committed to engagement at any price, Perry said. China must do its part.

"Our policy accepts China at its word when it says that it wants to become a responsible world power," he said. "But China sends quite the opposite message when it conducts missile tests and large military maneuvers off Taiwan, when it exports nuclear weapons technology or abuses human rights. It is time for China to start sending the right message."

Perry called on the Chinese to refrain from menacing military manuevers directed at Taiwan. He said the Chinese and Taiwanese need to resolve their differences peacefully.

Preventing nuclear proliferation in the AsiaPacific region is a U.S. security goal. Tensions with North Korea over its nuclear program reached a peak in spring 1994, Perry said. When the United States prepared to impose severe economic sanctions and increase the U.S. military force in South Korea, the North Koreans reversed course and signed the framework agreement. Since then, Perry said, relations have remained rocky, but the North Koreans have abided by the agreement.

Moving from a strategy of deterrence to prevention does not eliminate the need for a powerful military force, according to Perry. "We are still faced with dangers and potential threats that require us to maintain military forces powerful enough to be a persuasive deterrent or if the deterrent fails, powerful enough to fight and win," he said.

Countries like North Korea, Iraq and Iran, driven by virulent nationalism, armed with modern weapons and seeking nuclear weapons, threaten regional security, Perry said. The Korean War, the Vietnam War and Desert Storm are examples of costly regional conflicts, he said.

About 100,000 U.S. military serve as a security umbrella protecting the AsiaPacific region. This includes about 80,000 ground troops in Japan and Korea and 20,000 sailors in the Pacific fleet. The U.S. military supplements Japan's and South Korea's forces.

"Any potential aggressor knows [U.S. force in the Pacific] are backed up by a large, highly ready force in the United States along with the airlift and sealift that can project this force anywhere in the world," Perry said.

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