The geopolitical configuration of the Far East is changing with astonishing rapidity. Consider the following developments:
The Obama Administration has declared that its foreign and defense policies will "pivot" to Asia, in this case, meaning the Far East.
The hawks clearly came out ahead in the Chinese government changeover.
There is a tremendous buildup of the military forces of China, which are being constantly and aggressively deployed throughout the region, asserting Chinese sovereignty or suzerainty over huge swaths of the western Pacific.
The Japanese election returned the LDP to power with a large majority in the lower house. The LDP campaign pledged to eliminate the constitutional restrictions on Japanese military forces.
North Korea has launched a satellite into space, demonstrating a potential ability to launch a nuclear attack as far away as the United States.
What does all this mean?
The Chinese have managed to create a coalition of China's neighbors dedicated to containing Chinese power, depending on indigenous forces, but particularly on US military strength, and increasingly, on Japanese rearmament. This coalition, besides Japan, includes South Korea, Vietnam and The Philippines. Australia can be counted in and a very nervous Russia is watching on the sidelines.
In its southwestern frontier, China confronts a hostile India. It can only hope for the continued neutrality of Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar.
In the entire region it has only one ally- North Korea,, which is as much a liability, due to its economic weakness, as an asset.
In the meantime, the United States is faced with a situation which will inevitably result in a reduction of military force worldwide. A huge budget deficit and debt, the threat of the draconian reductions in the defense budget of the fiscal cliff, the continuing costs of the Afghan and Iraqi adventures and a general defense-weariness of the American people assure that it will happen. The only question is how serious it will be. It is all very well to shift emphasis to the Pacific, it is quite another to back up rhetoric with actual military assets, especially when the Middle East is an ever-increasing cauldron of instability and potential threat.
Europe can be written off the Asian picture, engrossed as it is in its own self-inflicted economic and financial miseries. Only the US, Japan and India can be counted on to form an effective counter-weight to China, in addition to the smaller allies. How ironic that most of them were occupied and many brutalized by the Japanese only seven decades ago.
As Winston Churchill is quoted as saying: There are no permanent allies - only permanent interests.
Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and a lecturer at The Israeli National Defense College (MABAL), 2011-2012 session.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on December 23, 2012
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012