America's Asia Policy
Keep on Pivoting

The United States is making a renewed push in its much-heralded “pivot to Asia.” Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter reaffirmed that the region is the top strategic priority for the U.S. in a speech at Arizona State University on Monday, Defense News reports:

The Pacific remains “the defining region” for America’s future, despite the ongoing challenges in the Arabian Gulf and European regions, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said. […]

Carter said it remained his goal to “lift our heads up and think about the places and events” that will change future security, and identified the Pacific as the hub of that future.

The new SecDef says he will be retooling the pivot, and he stressed the importance of new technology and maintaining good relations with the developing nations in the region. Notably, he identified trade relations as equally essential to America’s priorities in the region as military strength, going so far as to say that the TPP is as important as having an extra aircraft carrier in the Pacific.

It’s not just words, either; this week, the Administration is also putting muscle behind its claim of prioritizing Asia.  The U.S. is doubling the size of annual military drills with the Philippines, one of China’s primary territorial counter-claimants. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy is starting joint training with another of Beijing’s big territorial rivals, Vietnam, for the first time, on the 20th anniversary of the two countries’ establishment of diplomatic relations.

The biggest news, however, comes from Carter’s meeting with his Japanese counterpart, Gen. Nagataki. Though the details haven’t been made clear, the U.S. will be deepening its defense ties with Japan, which is rapidly re-militarizing under PM Shinzo Abe after a long period of strict, official pacifism following World War II. Expect to hear a lot more about close U.S.-Japan ties when Honest Abe comes to Washington later this month.

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