US must beef up its 'pivot to Asia'

opinion March 09, 2014 00:00

By The Yomiuri Shimbun
Asia News

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The United States, which is proceeding to cut its defence budget, has come up with a defence strategy to firmly maintain its "pivot to Asia" stance. We praise the United States' determination to demonstrate its stance to counter China's naval advancement.

The US Defence Department has announced a quadrennial defense review (QDR), the second under the administration of President Barack Obama.
While army troop strength will be reduced to the lowest level since the end of World War II, special operations forces and cyber-defence measures will be boosted, taking into consideration such factors as the period of fiscal austerity that the nation faces. Factors also include a planned withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan that will close a chapter in the war on terrorism in that country. It is quite appropriate to attach importance to military mobility and technology to respond to changes in the security environment.
In its Asia policy, the QDR says the United States will strengthen its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, where peace and stability “is increasingly central to US political, economic and security interests”.
It is particularly significant that the 2014 QDR stipulates that “By 2020, 60 per cent of US Navy assets will be stationed in the Pacific.” It also points to enhancements to its critical naval presence in Japan.
It is also noteworthy that the United States will proceed with the marines’ relocation from Okinawa Prefecture to Guam and enhance air force reconnaissance capabilities.
The United States must have concluded that it should demonstrate afresh its presence with these measures to deter China’s self-centred naval advancement.
Indeed, the QDR indicates a strong sense of alarm toward China, by highlighting China’s deployment of an anti-access and area-denial strategy against US forces on the seas, its lack of military transparency and its improvement in cyber-related and space-related technologies.
Japan must play key role
The United States will deploy a second early-warning radar system in Japan out of concern over North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs, according to the review. This is because the United States sees the unstable Kim Jong-un regime as a threat.
To enhance the efficacy of the US “pivot to Asia” strategy, Japan must fulfil an appropriate role.
To strengthen the Japan-US alliance, it must swiftly change the interpretation of the Constitution concerning the right to collective self-defence to allow the nation to exercise it.
It is also necessary to establish a framework to have the Self-Defense Forces and US forces work together more closely even in peacetime, through a second revision to the bilateral defence cooperation guidelines scheduled for the year’s end.
However, we are concerned that it is unclear whether US deterrence in Asia will be maintained in the future.
The US government is obliged to cut the defence budget by $500 billion, or about 51 trillion yen, over a 10-year period.
According to the QDR, if the defence budget reduction continues as planned, it will be difficult for US forces to maintain the nation’s current 11-carrier strike system, adversely affecting the crisis response capabilities of US forces as a whole.
What should be done to maintain the US forces’ deterrence in Asia in the future? 
The QDR expects such allies as Japan, Australia and South Korea to play additional leadership roles to supplement US efforts. Now US allies are urged to provide their wisdom and skills in this regard.