AMERICA NEEDS TO MAINTAIN A LEADERSHIP ROLE IN SOUTHEAST ASIA—TRADE-WISE AND MILITARILY—TO KEEP THE SEA LANES OPEN AND FREE!

In my last post, I made several points, which I wish to clarify, and enhance. The U. S. should: shift its focus to the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans, rather than the Atlantic; remain in the Trans-Pacific Partnership; and avoid local, internecine military engagements.  Let me explain why each of those points are still appropriate.

Russia, with its economy in a shambles, will not be able to continue funding an aggressive military, while providing the domestic programs that its people need.  The Eurasian Economic Union, of former Soviet satellites, adds nothing whatsoever to its global strength.  Also, its primary external target, Europe, is integrated militarily, and geographically concentrated.

China, on the other hand, is on the ascent, both economically and militarily.  Although it’s economy is currently showing its growing pains, it is still projected to surpass that of the U. S., within the next decade or two.  Also, China’s economy further benefits from its location in the moist dynamic, fastest-growing Region on earth.  The growth of the Chinese Navy seems to be a major element of its military growth, since any engagements in Asia-Pacific would be mostly naval battles

While China’s Military Budget pales when compared to that of the U. S., it is more concentrated.  It is primarily focused, first, in Southeast Asia, and then second, in the the Asia-Pacific Region.  It doesn’t patrol all the oceans of the world, as the American Navy does, and therefore, it isn’t diluting itself by acting as the Traffic Cop to the World,  We need our allies to step-up, and share the load—financially and militarily.

Let’s narrow the focus, from the two-ocean WorldAtlas map, to one of the Southeast China Sea (Middleburg-SCS map).  The Strait of Malacca lies between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore (just left of word “INDONESIA”, north-left of Australia), and it is a major choke-point, through which 50% of all global sea commerce passes, as well as 85% of China’s crude oil.  Also, as might be imagined, control of that one location—11 miles across, at its narrowest point, near Singapore—is of strategic importance.

More and more, Energy Security is of primary concern for most nations.  And, as China’s military power increases, the nations of Southeast Asia are concerned for several reasons.  China has been building “islands” in the middle of the Southeast China Sea, while citing historical claims, which have no relationship to any coastal shelf, or any other geological proof.  These claims might be used to take possession of valuable oil and mineral rights, as well as vital fisheries.  Also, there is concern that China might use them for military purposes, or to block vital waterways—such as The Strait!

Several of the Southeast Asian nations invite U. S. ships to visit their major ports frequently, and they have even upgraded their ports to accommodate them.  Realistically, however, they realize that America is half a world away.  They should transform ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) into a mutual defense pact, patterned after NATO, but with an Asian character.  They are all upgrading their military; but, properly coordinated, their might be strength in numbers—if they are integrated.

As China continues to grow its military—both in size and technological capacity—it might begin to become more offensive in asserting its alleged rights and, perhaps, even enforcing them militarily.  Even though the U. S. currently has a larger Defense Budget—and a larger Navy—we might still lose the advantage.  That’s because China’s somewhat smaller Military would have the geographic advantage.  This is why we need to remain engaged; not only in a military capacity, but in trade and diplomatic involvement, as well.  We also need all of our allies to meet their Defense Funding Obligations.

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