“The United States in the Asia Pacific” – WAC 6/2/2016 Event

On June 2, the World Affairs Council hosted the event “The United States in the Asia-Pacific” at the Seattle law offices of K&L Gates to discuss the Obama administration’s efforts to “rebalance” U.S. Foreign policy to the Asia Pacific region. Josh Gaul, a partner at K&L Gates, moderated the discussion. The panelists were:

Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, commander of U.S. Army I Corps. I Corps is a globally responsive and regionally aligned force directly assigned to the U.S. military’s Global Combatant Commander for the Pacific, making it an important part of the rebalance’s military component.

John MacPherson, Control Risks’ Senior Managing Director for consulting practices in greater China and North Asia. Control Risks is an independent, global risk consultancy specializing in helping organizations manage political, integrity, and security risks in complex and hostile environments. MacPherson’s career in the Asia Pacific region gives him unique insight into the political and economic effects of the rebalance.

What is the Rebalance to Asia?

Sometimes referred to as the “pivot” to Asia, the rebalance is the Obama administration’s effort to make the Asia Pacific region the top foreign-policy focus of the United States due to its growing strategic and economic importance. Since announcing the policy, the United States has begun moving more diplomatic and military resources into the region. A major economic component of the rebalance is the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal, of which seven out of twelve signatories are countries in the Asia Pacific region.

One major reason for the rebalance is the growing power and influence of China. The United States would like to make sure that a rising China is beneficial and not detrimental to other nations in the region. But China’s territorial claim to most of the South China Sea has raised tensions and prompted many countries in the region to want closer military ties to the United States.

U.S. Security Interests in the Asia Pacific Region

Along with territorial disputes between China and its neighbors, other security concerns in the region include the growing belligerency of North Korea and its continued development of nuclear weapons, as well as moves by terrorist groups such as ISIL to develop local franchises.

Despite recent tensions, neither China nor the United States has any appetite to go to war with the other and there are many areas in which both countries have mutual security interests. Recently China has expressed interest in working more closely with U.S. military in the area of international disaster relief and assistance. China is also concerned, along with the United States, about the expansion of ISIL in the Asia Pacific region.

Economic Interests and the Transpacific Partnership

The Transpacific Partnership (TPP) is a free-trade agreement signed by twelve Pacific Rim nations with the goal of making them more economically competitive with China. To date, TPP has been fairly controversial in the signatory countries and its ratification has become less certain.

It is likely that, at some point in the future, China will try to negotiate its own regional trade agreement that will be more in line with its economic interests. Until then China will continue to invest heavily in the infrastructure of neighboring countries and its efforts to buy and secure natural resources in order to further expand its economic influence in the region.

Below are a few pictures from the event: