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China Still Vital For US

Chinese President Hu and US President Bush are "good friends". Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Andrea Reimer
UPI Outside View Commentator
Vienna (UPI) Apr 05, 2006
China still plays a vital role in U.S. geopolitical considerations. Asia gained currency in the United States from the start of President George W. Bush's first term. The accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999 and the forced landing of a U.S. electronic surveillance aircraft on Hainan Island in 2001 caused a shift in U.S. policy towards China, which is considered the key player in Asia.

India, which had leaned towards the Soviet Union and Russian until late 2001, became another new regional cooperation partner for the United States. Relations with other players such as Singapore, the Philippines and Australia received a new twist. Much was done under the label of the Global War on Terrorism.

The U.S. National Security Strategy of 2002 dedicates a considerable chapter to U.S.-Asia-Pacific relations. Some of the issues indicated have been already settled. A number are still pending; nevertheless, it is obvious that Asia has received a new drive of importance in U.S. geopolitics.

This does not mean that it lost importance, but quality has changed -- not only since the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Looking into the current list of U.S. strategic interests, the following ones seem at hand as listed in the Commission on National Interest Report 2000, which is still the agenda guideline.

U.S. vital interests are:

-- That the United States establish productive relations with China, America's major potential strategic adversary in East Asia.

-- That South Korea and Japan survive as free and independent states, and cooperate actively with the United States to resolve important global and regional problems.

Extremely important U.S. interests are:

-- That peace be maintained in the Taiwan Strait and on the Korean Peninsula.

-- That China and Japan achieve lasting reconciliation under terms that benefit America.

Important U.S. interests are:

-- That the East Asian countries, including China, continue on the path toward democracy and free markets.

-- That East Asian markets grow more open to U.S. goods, services, and investment.

-- That a peaceful solution is reached to secondary territorial disputes such as those in the South China Sea or Senkaku Islands.

Certainly, China plays a key role in U.S. geopolitical considerations. The latest developments during the session of the National People's Congress in early March 2006 provided another guideline for the importance of Asia in general and China in particular.

In his national address, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao pointed to several crucial issues, such as decreasing the welfare gap and settling some of the most burning regional conflicts; additional economic growth will dampen to prevent the social gap from increasing even further.

China has come on a remarkable rise and is about to enter into a crucial phase. The United States will have to observe these crucial moments -- which, of course, will last several years -- with scrutiny. A coherent China, which can deal with its internal challenges, has to be in the interest of the United States.

India has received new prominence, because of the multidimensional power the country exerts. Despite the fact that India was not explicitly mentioned in the Commission Report 2000, it gained a revised position. One reason behind this change is the Indian nuclear threat.

Only recently could President George W. Bush sign an agreement with India on nuclear issues. The agreement was assessed as a key break-through in U.S.-India relations, less than a decade after the two were heavily divided over India's nuclear attempts and ambitions.

The seal of the nuclear deal can be seen as a signal for fundamental changes on the bilateral level. Power patterns have changed, particularly after Sept. 11, 2001. So did the U.S. role in the region, their changed potentials for actions and geopolitical interests.

Another rather new American partner is Pakistan. The recent Asia visit of U.S. President George W. Bush showed its increased importance, though it received a different meaning in the U.S. perception. Pakistan has gained crucial importance in the Global War on Terrorism.

It is a nuclear power, a weak state that has been held together by a strict military government. Still, Pakistan is in an iffy condition and it will take some considerable time until it proves itself a stable partner for the United States.

Japan and Australia have been decades-old partners in the region. Long-lasting historical ties prove the basis for solid cooperation and for accountability.

Taiwan and the two Koreas mark problematic partners within the regional framework. Conflicts among those players are still pending and rather far away from settlement. Recent events in both cases have sparked the development towards more heated moments.

A key to U.S. success in Asia is the strength of its alliance system. The emergence of a new hegemony in Asia would threaten this still advantageous position. The main issue for the whole region is the level of interlinking. Hardly one of the key players is out of the linkage chain. For that reason, pulling one string makes the whole situation move. Sometimes, those moves can have unintended consequences.

(Andrea Reimer is a senior researcher for the Austrian Defense Academy and a frequent contributor to the Munich-based World Security Network. This article is reprinted by permission of WSN.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

Source: United Press International

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