Resilience and Power in the Pacific|
What a Difference a Day Makes
Merrick Carey, a former Navy intelligence officer and senior congressional aide, is chief executive officer of the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va.
The Bush administration came into office determined to reorient U.S. security policy away from its 50-year focus on Europe and toward greater involvement and investment in Asia. Members of the new administration made it clear from the beginning that they think future threats are more likely to emerge from Asia than from Europe. Some critics saw this as an attempt to manufacture a new enemy--North Korea or China were the most likely suspects.
Other, more thoughtful, observers suggested that the new administration's thinking reflects two new geopolitical realities: (1) the overall security environment in Asia is still uncertain; and (2) because almost all of Europe is now democratic (or leaning that way) it seems unlikely that any major new wars would be starting there in the near future. As former Clinton Defense Department official and Asia expert Dr. Kurt Campbell wrote at the beginning of the year, "The past ten years have led many observers to expect predictability and rationality in the progression of Asian events. In strategic terms, Asia experienced nothing as pressing as the reunification of Germany, NATO enlargement, or the disintegration of Yugoslavia. However, the immediate future in Asia is likely to provide a real test of the ingenuity and leadership of the new Bush administration."
The Bush administration was intent on recasting U.S. security policy toward Asia. Bush advisors had been harshly critical of the Clinton administration for what they perceived to be a tendency to appease dictatorships and to undervalue U.S. relationships with long-term democratic friends and allies. These same advisors were particularly unhappy about U.S. policy toward China and North Korea; they expressed both puzzlement and anger about China's military buildup, its espionage activities in the United States, and its efforts to divert dual-use technology. It also was charged that the Clinton administration had failed to stop Chinese technology transfers, which had contributed materially to the proliferation activities of Pakistan and North Korea.
The new president's advisors also were critical of the U.S.-North Korea Framework Agreement, the centerpiece of President Clinton's efforts to stop and eventually roll back Pyongyang's efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Critics of the Framework Agreement charged that it unduly advantaged North Korea while that country continued to deploy ballistic missiles and to proliferate weapons technology to other rogue states.
The Bush presidential campaign emphasized a return to a more "realist" approach to foreign policy in Asia, including a renewed focus on unilateral and bilateral (rather than multilateral) initiatives, a greater emphasis on military security issues than on economic ones, and the de-emphasis of nonsecurity issues such as health and the environment. As a candidate Bush said that "we must show American power and purpose in strong support for our Asian friends and allies. This means keeping our pledge to deter aggression against the Republic of Korea and strengthening security ties with Japan. This means expanding theater missile defenses among our allies."
The administration's nascent Asia strategy emphasized: (a) taking a harder line with respect to current or potential adversaries, particularly North Korea and China; (b) shoring up U.S. relations with traditional friends and allies; and (c) generally expanding U.S. involvement in the region. The United States intended to oppose the growing military power and diplomatic assertiveness of China both by increasing the American military presence in the region and by providing additional military and political support to allies such as Taiwan. The administration also wanted to cultivate new allies in the region. The White House believed that the Clinton administration's policy of emphasizing the development of global norms, such as nonproliferation, not only had been ineffective in halting proliferation but also had antagonized potential allies such as India.
The "tilt" to Asia also raised a number of platform and hardware issues revolving around the "tyranny of distance"--which Andrew Marshall, Loren Thompson, and other strategists have warned about--and the obvious need for long-range strike capabilities such as heavy bombers and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines. Marshall invites visitors to his Pentagon office to superimpose a map of Europe on a map of Asia, a simple exercise that makes it easy to grasp the gigantic geographical challenge Asia represents--particularly in comparison with Europe, and especially because of the absence of military base access on the continent.
In addition, President Bush had campaigned on a pledge to move beyond the 1972 ABM (antiballistic missile) treaty and to deploy both theater and national missile-defense systems. As a corollary to the new emphasis on missile defenses, some analysts suggested that the United States might sell advanced DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, equipped with the Aegis missile-defense system, to Taiwan.
Events over the past year certainly seem to have validated Campbell's warning, and also tested the administration's initial policy views. A series of major mishaps in Asia presented President Bush and senior officials with overlapping tests of their skills in crisis management.
Soon after taking office, for example, the administration had to deal with a freak accident that became a nightmare threatening its relationship with Japan: the collision with and sinking of the Japanese fishing vessel Ehime Maru by the nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Greeneville off the coast of Hawaii. Following on the heels of that tragedy, a collision between a U.S. EP-3 intelligence aircraft and a Chinese fighter occurred in international air space over the South China Sea. The latter incident, although peacefully resolved, exacerbated each side's suspicions of the other side's motives and plans. In July, Russia and China signed a historic agreement on strategic cooperation intended, so it seemed, to create an anti-hegemonic front in opposition to the United States. Finally, also in July, the ouster of Indonesian President Abdurrahaman Wahid and his replacement by Mega-wati Sukarnoputri raised the specter of civil war in the world's most populous Muslim country.
Although none of these events was evidence of a policy in disarray, the administration's specific responses to each event over the course of the year caused many, not only in Asia but also in the United States itself, to question Washington's judgment and vision.
What a difference a day makes. The events of 11 September and the U.S. response to them fundamentally altered the geostrategic landscape not only of the Asia-Pacific region but also of the entire world. Today, U.S. relations with its allies (most of them, if not quite all) have never been stronger. The government of Japan is considering a groundbreaking change in security policy that would permit the deployment of Japanese military forces to the Middle East in support of the U.S.-led war against terrorism. The positive shift in U.S.- Russian relations has far outstripped the Sino-Russian pact entered into only a few months earlier. By the time of the annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Council--held in Shanghai in mid-October--it was clear that the United States is now the unquestioned superpower in Asia, and the Pacific Ocean glistened once again as a peaceful American lake. Not since the peak of Roman hegemony had one great power so dominated world affairs as the United States does today.
The war on terrorism also seems to have altered the tenuous U.S. relationship with the United Nations. Congress paid $582 million last summer in overdue U.S. dues to the United Nations. And it is now clear what earlier had only been presumed--namely, that the United States plans to use the United Nations to play a vital security role as the war in Afghanistan winds down--by, among other things, forging a post-Taliban political consensus among Afghan parties, organizing peacekeepers and humanitarian efforts, and caring for over one million Afghan refugees until they can return in peace and safety to their homeland.
U.S.-China-Taiwan: An Uneasy Relationship
The Asia-Pacific security picture for most of 2001 was dominated by evolving assessment of the threat by both the United States and China. Events over the course of several years had caused each side to consider more seriously the possibility of war with the other. Several events during the first part of the year seemed to bear out this pessimistic view.
In 2001, China continued to expand its military capabilities. The PRC's 2001 national budget provided a 17.7 percent increase in defense spending, the largest one-year increase in what already had been a steady expansion in defense spending since the Gulf War. In part, this pattern reflected the Beijing government's decision earlier in the decade to force the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to give up its lucrative business activities. The loss of funds that resulted from this decision was made up by the allocation of additional government funds.
The net increase has been used in part to continue the PLA's weapons modernization program. That program includes the acquisition from Russia of about 500 SU-27 air-superiority and SU-30 ground-attack fighters through a combination of direct purchase and license to build. In addition, China is acquiring from Russia the S-300 (SA-10) surface-to-air missile system, SS-N-22 Sunburn anti-ship missiles, Kilo-class diesel-powered submarines, and Sovremenny-class guided-missile destroyers.
Russia and China also are reported to have finalized a deal under which China will take delivery (next year) of four A-50 Mainstay airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft. These would replace the Israeli-built Phalcon AEW aircraft--the sale of which to China was cancelled by the Israeli government under intense U.S. pressure.
The PLA's larger budgets also have supported the expansion of China's missile programs. In early 2001, U.S. surveillance satellites detected the completion of a new Chinese missile base opposite Taiwan. That base was reported to house some 100 CSS-7 short-range missiles.
Overall, China is believed to have deployed over 300 short-range missiles capable of reaching Taiwan. In addition, China continues work on its DF-31 and DF-41 ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles). There also have been reports that China may be developing advanced warheads with penetration aids designed to defeat missile-defense systems. The first at-sea launch of the JL-2 SLBM, observed in mid-January 2001, suggests that Beijing also is moving ahead with its program to build an indigenous ballistic-missile submarine. Collectively, these developments have increased pressure for the United States to proceed with near-term theater missile defense programs such as the Airborne Laser and the THAAD (Theater High-Altitude Area Defense) system.
Meanwhile, yet other reports suggest that the Chinese military is seriously exploring the use of asymmetric strategies to counter or avoid what are clear U.S. military advantages. Chinese military writings speak of the concept of "unrestricted warfare," an umbrella term encompassing: (a) efforts to interfere with the operation of complex U.S. military systems; (b) cyber attacks against IT (information technology) systems; (c) the manipulation of financial markets; and even (d) terrorism.
The sense of a growing potential for a military confrontation between the two major powers of Asia was exacerbated by the collision of a Chinese fighter with a U.S. EP-3 reconnaissance airplane over the South China Sea on 1 April. The U.S. aircraft, which was maintaining a steady course and speed when the Chinese fighter collided with it, crash-landed on China's Hainan Island. After a protracted and testy period of negotiations, the EP-3 crew was returned to the United States (on 13 April). The aircraft itself was recovered some months later, but only after it had been given a thorough intelligence scrub by the Chinese and then dismantled and shipped home in a giant Russian cargo aircraft.
There was a great deal of international anxiety regarding the impact of the EP-3 crisis on U.S. perceptions of Taiwan's security needs and Washington's willingness to sell advanced military weapon systems to Taiwan. The international community did not have long to wait. At the end of April, President Bush approved the largest package of arms sales to Taiwan in a decade, including eight diesel-electric submarines, four Kidd-class guided- missile destroyers, a dozen P-3 ASW (antisubmarine warfare) aircraft, a number of minesweeping helicopters, and advanced torpedoes. Because the United States no longer builds non-nuclear submarines, innovative ways are being explored to acquire the necessary designs and technical data needed for the Taiwan submarines and to then provide that data to a private-sector contractor with a submarine-building capability.
At the same time, the United States held off on approving Taiwan's request to buy Aegis-equipped destroyers, Apache helicopters, HARM antiradiation missiles, and main battle tanks. Finally, President Bush declared that he would scrap the annual review of arms sales to Taiwan.
Taiwan also is proceeding with the first Asian-based network-centric data link, stringing its E-2C Hawkeyes together with F-16 and Mirage fighters currently in the arsenal to create an unprecedented non-American picture of the battlespace over the stormy Taiwan Strait.
The additional armaments Washington has decided to provide could do much to equalize the balance of forces across the Taiwan Strait--but not until the new weapons and platforms actually have been delivered. However, it will take several years for the new ships and aircraft to enter service--perhaps as much as ten years for the diesel- electric submarines, for which neither a design nor a builder has been identified.
In the meantime, China will continue to enjoy the military advantage in the Strait that can be countered only by the cold hard steel provided by forward-deployed American naval forces. Meanwhile, the dramatic December 2001 election successes by pro-independence, anti-PRC candidates in Taiwan indicate an easing of tensions is unlikely. Indeed, the call for abandoning America's "one-China" policy seems likely to grow on both sides of the Pacific, adding fuel to the independence movement on Taiwan, and, on the Chinese mainland, new pressures to "democratize."
Seeming to cap a period of growing U.S.-Chinese tensions, on 16 July Russia and China signed their first "friendship" treaty since the end of the Cold War. Many observers saw this treaty, although not explicitly a military alliance, as the creation of a strategic partnership intended to counter the power of the United States in the region.
In short, until 11 September, it seemed that the United States and China were on a collision course. Each side saw the other as maneuvering to increase its power and influence in the region. But, as Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), a key member of the House Armed Services and Budget Committees, observed, "It seems clear that U.S. actions and those of its close allies in the region after 11 September have strengthened Washington's position and demonstrated the resilience and power of the American-led alliance system."
Japan's Emerging Power
The election of Junchiro Koizumi as Japan's prime minister could mark the beginning of a true renaissance in Japan's domestic and foreign policy. He was elected on a platform that promised reform of the economy, an overhaul of government regulatory practices, and a more assertive foreign and security policy. As a candidate, Koizumi argued that Japan should modify its self-imposed ban on exercising its legitimate right of self-defense, and should more actively participate both in international security activities and in military operations alongside its closest ally, the United States.
Early in his administration, Koizumi's foreign minister, Makiko Tanaka, publicly raised doubts about the terms of the U.S.-Japan alliance, questioned the necessity and feasibility of missile defense, and indicated that Japan might seek a reduction in the U.S. military presence in Japan. Tanaka's behavior during her first visit to Washington provoked a strong reminder from U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell that America has been, and is, Japan's best friend.
Koizumi was quick to rein in his foreign minister and to reaffirm the centrality of the U.S. alliance to Japan's security. He also made it clear, in his first meeting with Bush, that the United States is Japan's principal global ally, and seemed to side with Bush's position against the listing Kyoto Global Warming Treaty. This was a significant departure from the policy of the previous Japanese government, and welcome support for the Bush administration, which had faced harsh criticism from other allies, particularly in Europe, for opposing the treaty.
The Japanese themselves have made it clear they cannot accept a treaty imposing "legally binding" emissions-reduction targets. This stand has put Japan at odds with the European Union, which insists that the protocol's prescribed cuts in greenhouse gas emissions must be legally binding. Failure to resolve this issue at the recent global warming conference in Marrakech puts an additional element of uncertainty over the future of the treaty, particularly since President Bush had rejected the climate pact soon after taking office.
Japan responded rapidly and forcefully to the events of 11 September, and has fully supported the U.S.-led war on global terrorism. Prime Minister Koizumi even has indicated that he is exploring ways that Japan can provide concrete assistance to U.S. military operations against terrorist groups.
The most significant development for Japan's security in 2001 was the publication of the Defense White Paper, which defines Japan's current national-security environment and sets out the framework and goals for a new Mid-term Defense Program. The security situation in the region is described in the White Paper as increasingly uncertain, particularly in view of the military buildup across the Taiwan Strait, the continuing threat to Northeast Asia posed by the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea --i.e., North Korea), and the growing possibility of major terrorist actions against Japan.
The White Paper also warns that the new strategic partnership between Russia and China could create a confrontational situation between those nations on one side and, on the other, the United States and its allies.
The Mid-term Defense Program is intended to drive an evolution in the capabilities of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to meet emerging security challenges. One of the major challenges identified by the White Paper is the possibility of more widespread and faster-moving warfare, higher-performance weapons, and electronic or cyber attacks against information systems--all of which are possible results of the rapid evolution and diffusion of information technology.
Another challenge is the increased possibility of terrorist attacks that might involve weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). A third challenge is how to cope with large-scale and complex humanitarian disasters--e.g., earthquakes and/or typhoons.
The Mid-term Defense Program seeks to respond to these challenges by streamlining the Self-Defense Forces and investing in new and/or upgraded capabilities and the infrastructures needed to meet the security challenges anticipated.
A key area for investment, according to the White Paper, is in an advanced network environment. Enhancements to mobility and to search-and-rescue capabilities are intended to respond to the demand for improved responsiveness both to disaster-relief emergencies and to address the counter-terrorism and WMD threats.
Each component of Japan's self-defense forces will be restructured, and its equipment upgraded. The Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF), for example, will continue its planned reduction to 166,000 personnel, but will acquire more mobile systems--e.g., light armored vehicles, light anti-tank missiles, additional Type 99 155mm self-propelled howitzers, Type 90 tanks, and MLRS launchers. The Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) will disband one escort division, but will acquire additional air-defense-capable destroyers, new submarines, and SH-60J helicopters; the MSDF also will begin planning for a replacement for its P-3C surveillance aircraft. Japan's Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) will change very little, but will seek to acquire a range of new capabilities through acquisition of U-125A search-and- rescue aircraft, UH-60J search-and- rescue helicopters, CH-47J transport helicopters, and Patriot missiles. The ASDF also will modernize its fleet of E2-C airborne surveillance aircraft and begin the process of identifying a successor to the C-1 transport.
Managing the Koreas
The Bush administration entered office not totally sure of how it wanted to proceed with respect to security issues on the Korean peninsula. Many in the (then) Republican-dominated Congress as well as some senior advisors to the president were extremely skeptical about the wisdom of continuing the current arrangements, based on the 1994 Agreed Framework with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. They viewed North Korea's continuing proliferation of ballistic-missile technology as a serious threat not only to the region but also across the globe. There had been no evidence that the improvement in relations with the outside world, including the provision of food aid and fuel assistance, had modified the DPRK's security policies or resulted in any reduction of its military activities.
Initially, the Bush administration appeared unsure of its approach to Korean affairs and, more specifically, how--and whether--to continue negotiations with the DPRK. The White House soon decided, however, after conducting a general review and assessment of U.S. policy in the region, to proceed with the implementation of existing agreements and to conduct a "comprehensive" dialogue with North Korea.
To date, that dialogue has not achieved significant progress in changing the situation on the peninsula or in gaining meaningful controls over the DPRK's programs to build and/or otherwise acquire weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. President Bush himself has singled out North Korea as a prime WMD proliferator.
The overall status of the North Korean military remains relatively un-changed from last year. In general, its equipment is aging and the economic base it needs to support offensive operations continues to erode. That said, Pyongyang increased the weight of its force deployed forward--i.e., within 100 kilometers of its border with South Korea. Pyongyang also is deploying the No Dong ballistic missile in protected sites that are costly to construct but very difficult to attack from the air.
The DPRK's WMD program re-mains a particularly serious concern. Recently, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence John McLaughlin publicly declared that "the North probably has one or two nuclear bombs--and it may also have biological weapons alongside its chemical ones." Pyongyang has declared a moratorium on tests of its long-range ballistic missiles through the end of 2003. However, by cooperating with other states engaged in developing such systems, the DPRK continues to proliferate its ballistic- missile technology and to gain technical experience helpful to its own ballistic-missile program. Continuation of such actions, in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks, could bring on a much more violent American response than previously imagined.
Meanwhile, the Republic of Korea (ROK--i.e., South Korea) is continuing its own long-term defense-modernization program. The most important step in that program last year was to have been the selection, in mid-October, of a candidate for the F-X fighter program. The decision was postponed, though, for at least a few months. The four main contenders when the postponement was announced were a variant of the Boeing F-15, the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Dassault Rafale, and the Sukhoi S-35. Several of the contenders had already added advanced air-to-ground capabilities to the package--e.g., the Boe- ing AGM-86H Standoff Land-Attack Missile-Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) and the Dassault SCALP-EG cruise missile. The intensity of the last-minute bidding apparently presented the ROK leaders with so many new options that they needed more time to consider their decision.
The ROK also is pursuing improvements to its ground and naval for- ces. Ground force programs include improvements to the ROK's aging fleet of tanks, the acquisition of addition- al counter-battery fire radars, and enhanced communications equipment.
In late 2000 the Seoul government chose the German Type 214 diesel-electric submarine for its advanced submarine program. An indigenous follow-on class of submarines is anticipated sometime after 2010. In addition, the first of three 5,000-ton KDX-II destroyers was launched.
An Era of Change For Southeast Asia
The security environment in Southeast Asia can best be described as uncertain. The most dramatic event of the past year was the removal--by constitutional means, it should be emphasized--of Indonesian President Abduraham Wahid, who was succeeded by former Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri. The new president faces a host of social and political problems ranging from financial mismanagement and corruption to political instability in some provinces and a restive military.
The sometimes incendiary situation involving Indonesia's separatist movements was relatively quiet for most of 2001. Nevertheless, the potential for civil unrest in places such as Aceh, Irian Jaya, the Moluccas, and Lombok remains very high. There have been scattered reports of some clashes between separatists and the military.
The deteriorating economic situation and political uncertainties have made it impossible for the Indonesian military to acquire much-needed new hardware and other assistance. The United States has been looking for ways to expand its ties with the Indonesian military, but there are concerns regarding the commitment of the military to support the democratic government. The U.S. concerns reflect the unhappy experience in East Timor, when the Indonesian Army supported violent antiseparatist factions.
The United States and the Philippines are exploring the basis for a closer security relationship. Both have a strong interest in containing both the PRC and radical Islamists. The two countries have started a joint-defense assessment to review Manila's plans for defense modernization. The Philippines' military has requirements for new planes, ships, and ground systems that far exceed the limits of its defense budget. The most urgent of those needs are enhanced surveillance capabilities and upgraded mobility assets--e.g., transport aircraft and patrol vessels--with which to ensure the security of its territorial waters.
The Philippine Army also is deficient in helicopters, communications equipment, light armored vehicles, and light infantry gear, all of which items are needed to support expanded counter-terrorism operations. A U.S. SOF (special operations forces) mission is reported to be conducting counterterrorist training with the Philippine Army.
In Australia, the government's long-awaited Defense White Paper, Defense 2000--officially released on 6 December 2000--calls for a significant increase in defense spending and major improvements to Australia's air, ground, and sea forces.
The United States and Australia conducted a joint maritime deployment of the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in the summer of 2001 that demonstrated the value of persistent intelligence coverage, particularly when the UAV linked with other tactical platforms. The Australian Air Force is acquiring four new AEW aircraft and upgrading its fleet of F/A-18 Hornet fighter/attack aircraft to deliver standoff weapons.
The Australian Army will create a rapid-deployment brigade and is acquiring 24 armed reconnaissance helicopters, and 12 additional troop transport helicopters, to improve its overall reach and striking power.
The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is proceeding with its long-standing program to fix the problems encountered with its Collins-class submarine program. The United States and Australia signed a Statement of Principles (SOP) to promote greater interoperability between their respective submarine forces. Central to the SOP is the design and development of a new combat data system for the Collins-class submarines. The RAN also began a significant upgrade to its Perry-class guided-missile frigates.
The Post-9/11 Future
The attacks of 11 September have done nothing to change the Bush administration's view that the Asia-Pacific region will loom ever larger in Washington's security calculus. What they may have done, however, is to change or at least influence the thinking of many in the region about future security threats and the importance of their relationships with the United States.
The initial responses, mostly supportive, by U.S. allies in the region to the war on terrorism clearly underscore the importance that traditional allies now place on maintaining close ties with America. Democratic nations such as Japan, Australia, South Korea, and Taiwan were among the first allies to voice their solidarity with the United States in the war on terrorism. Australia has committed troops and equipment to the fight. Japan is exploring ways of providing operational support. The Philippines is cooperating actively in operations against terrorist groups.
The 11 September attacks also may have short-circuited what was perceived by some as the growth of competing blocs in the Asia-Pacific region. The Russian response to the attack and the now growing likelihood that Moscow and Washington may reach an historic new agreement on strategic forces (including abrogation of the 1972 ABM Treaty) mark a turning point in Russian-American relations. The rapprochement already evident far outweighs the importance of the Sino-Russian treaty in shaping the balance of power in the region.
Finally, the war on terrorism will require the maintenance of a strong, and continuing, U.S. military presence--as far forward as possible--in the Asia-Pacific region. If anything, that presence is likely to expand over time as the United States establishes closer security ties with nations such as the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, and India in Washington's effort not only to hunt down and eliminate terrorist cells, wherever they exist, but also take whatever remedial action is needed to persuade the states that support terrorists that they will be held just as accountable.
Also, as the United States develops and deploys new means to conduct the war on terrorism and to defend the U.S. homeland, its value as a security partner to the nations of the region is likely to grow.
Perhaps the most difficult decision the Bush administration faces is what to do about America's over-stretched and aging military force structure. It is self-defeating to believe that the United States can run a global war against terrorism, ramp up homeland defense, contain China and North Korea, and maintain myriad other global-security commitments with a force of only 12 aircraft carriers, 10 Army divisions, and 21 modern long-range bombers. To increase both the size and the capabilities of that force will require not only the advice and consent of Congress but also, and of greater importance, the approval of the American people.
President Bush and his advisors already have demonstrated their determination and sense of purpose in numerous other ways, so achieving an agreement on a new defense strategy may be difficult, but would not be impossible.