LYONS and FISHER: Is it time to create an ‘Asian NATO’?

As was mentioned here only a few days ago is already being considered.

A regional security alternative should replace a weakened U.S. Pacific presence

China’s new president, Xi Xinping, has discarded former leader Deng Xiaoping’s cautious foreign policy of “bide our time, hide our capabilities,” by mounting increasing military challenges to America’s Asian allies and to U.S. leadership.

China’s bullying tactics in the East China Sea and South China Sea will only increase with its expanding military might despite President Obama’s much-heralded pivot to Asia. The pivot is not enough. Washington must elevate regional military cooperation if China is to be deterred.

Coming on the heels of China’s declaration of an air-defense identification zone over the East China Sea, Beijing continued its bullying tactics in its Dec. 5 direct challenge to the USS Cowpens, an Aegis guided-missile cruiser, exercising its freedom of navigation rights in the East China Sea. The Cowpens was forced to take immediate evasive action to avoid a collision with a Chinese naval ship that “stopped” dead ahead of the cruiser. According to reports, the Chinese navy was trying to enforce a 28-mile moving “exclusion zone” around its first operational carrier, the Liaoning. Such action is totally unacceptable. Likewise, China’s attempt to force all aircraft entering into its declared identification zone to provide preflight routing plans even if just transiting the area is also unacceptable.

Our current strategy of not confronting China directly and hoping China will change its aggressive tactics is clearly not working. Therefore, a new strategy is required if we are to retain our leadership position as the key element in maintaining peace and stability in the Western Pacific and to force China to change direction from its path of increasing military belligerence. Such a new strategy will require an evolutionary approach. Currently, while many Asian states prefer to cooperate militarily with the United States on a bilateral basis, long-standing enmities between many of them have prevented the building of formal intra-Asian military arrangements. An “Asian NATO” would be ideal, but it is simply unrealistic today.

Many of the ASEAN nations prefer informal defense cooperation that allows the United States to act as a regional stabilizer. However, this situation is also advantageous for China. For decades, China has waged a low-intensity conflict in disputed maritime zones while politically isolating Taiwan. It has illegally built facilities on contested islands in the South China Sea, harassed the Philippines, and are trying to spark a confrontation with Japan in the East China Sea. With its massive military buildup, China will soon have the conventional military-power projection and nuclear-missile force capability to seize contested areas and potentially deter U.S. intervention.

To better deter such Chinese actions, we need to create informal mechanisms now that will enable future options for an Asian maritime alliance. The United States can take the lead by extending and deepening already existing bilateral mutual-defense treaties. We then need to extend our current informal patterns of cooperation with other nations in the region by leveraging our modern secure digital communications to build virtual cooperation that can prepare for actual expanded military cooperation.

Full article: LYONS and FISHER: Is it time to create an ‘Asian NATO’? (Washington Times)

Comments are closed.