National Press Club

CSIS scholars say U.S. foreign policy shifting to Asia

February 13, 2012 | By Robert Webb |

Clark A. Murdock, Karl F. Inderfurth, Ernest Bower and Myron Belkind

Clark A. Murdock, Karl F. Inderfurth, Ernest Bower and Myron Belkind

Photo/Image: Michael Wiliams

Three Scholars from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) agreed at a Feb. 13 National Press Club Newsmaker news conference that U.S. major foreign-policy concerns are now in Asia and focused on India and China rather than the Middle East.

"Defense policy has shifted to Asia with our existing alliances of strategic value," said Ernest Bower, senior advisor and director of the CSIS Southeast Asia Program and Pacific Partners initiative.

The event occurred as Chinese Vice President XI Jinping, expected to succeed President Hu Jintao, arrived in Washington on an official visit.

Bower predicted Pentagon spending will increasingly go to Asia and cited the new long-range bomber project as an example. Japan and South Korea are interested in U.S. security plans for Asia, he said.

The U.S. signalled its shift to Asia with the troops President Barack Obama ordered to Australia and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's trip to Myanmar (Burma), Bower said.

"China is one of the threats in the region with its military capability with which the U.S. must deal," said Clark A. Murdoch, senior adviser for the CSIS Defense and National Security Group and director of the CSIS Project on Nuclear Issues. He cited China's 1.4 billion people with "its future (requiring) food and water supplies."

Clinton's mention of a possible three-way meeting of the U.S., China and India could lead to "the possibility of creative diplomacy," said Karl F. Inderfurth, former U.S. assistant secretary of State for South Asian affairs and senior adviser and Wadhwani Chair in U.S. policy studies.

The U.S. needs to decide the relationship it wants with India, Inderfurth said. Former President George W. Bush pushed for stronger trade relations with India for eight years but more needs to be done, he said. He called attention to the "rise of India after the rise of China." Both countries are modernizing their militaries, he said.

Inderfurth also mentioned former President Bill Clinton's effort to build stronger relationships with China and cited the role of Deng Xiaoping, the Communist leader and reformer who led the country into its current version of socialism.

Other important Asian countries such as Myanmar (Burma) and the Philippines were mentioned by the panelists. A possible expansion of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations to 18 was also mentioned.

Answering a question about New Zealand's role in U.S. Asian policy, Bower said that country has provided troops for every American war since World War I. Relations with New Zealand are solid today despite its having barred American nuclear-loaded ships from its waters, he said.

The event was a partnership of the International Correspondents and Newsmaker Committees.