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The role of the United States in post-Cold War East Asian security affairs.

Introduction: U.S. Military and Economic Power in Post-Cold War East Asia

The sudden collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1991 and the effective end of the Cold War has caused significant long-term changes in the equations of military and economic power and the general framework of regional security in Asia as well as in the rest of the world, notably Europe. The event has removed the major putative source of ideological, political, and military threat to many, if not all, nations in the region, especially those allied, whether formally or informally, with the U.S. This change in turn has, on one hand, substantially lessened the ideological and military tension and heightened hopes for cooperation between erstwhile adversaries of the Cold War period, and, on the other, sharpened economic, and to a lesser extent military, competition among erstwhile allies and friends of that period. These changes are clearly significant and likely to have further, but as yet unpredictable, ripple effects on the power equations and the patterns of relations among the nations in the region and between them and those outside the region. As far, however, as the physical or structural aspects of the security environment of the region, broadly defined, are concerned, the changes so far have been hardly as dramatic as one might have expected.

For one thing, the Cold War framework of military and economic security in the region was never rigidly defined but was relatively loose and fluid. The People's Republic of China (PRC), for example, was anything but a bona fide ally of the Soviet Union in the 1960s and thereafter or an uncompromising foe of the U.S. in the 1970s and thereafter. Vietnam, a staunch ally of the Soviet Union and the archenemy of the U.S. in the mid-1950s through the mid-1970s, had become the PRC's major adversary by the late 1970s. On the other side of the Cold War divide, Japan and its former colony, the Republic of Korea (ROK), were both major allies of the U.S. but remained either loudly hostile towards or quietly wary of each other throughout the Cold War era. Between the two loosely and ambiguously antagonistic blocs, the largest Southeast Asian nation, Indonesia, was a prominent member of the group of non-aligned nations until the mid-1960s when a change of government led to a change in foreign policy away from non-alignment and neutralism towards alignment with the West. In short, the lines between the two Cold War blocs in Asia were not very neat and unambiguous.

For another thing, the basic equations of military and economic power among nations in the region and between them and those outside remained virtually unchanged in the short run. The U.S. retained its preponderant overall military power and presence in the region under the Pacific Command with a far-flung chain of bases scattered from the U.S. West Coast to Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Australia, Diego Garcia, Singapore, Japan, and the ROK. True, its forces were substantially cut in the post-Cold War period. For example, its nuclear deterrent arsenal was projected to be nearly halved between 1989 and 1997, from 1,000 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to 580, from 32 ballistic-missile submarines (SSBN) to 17, and from 359 "heavy," i.e., nuclear-capable, bombers to 174; while its navy's conventional arsenal was reduced over the same period from 16 aircraft carriers to 11 and from 287 surface combatants and attack submarines to 192, its air force's from 25 tactical wings to 13, and the overall size of its active forces from over 2.1 million men and women in the mid-1980s to less than 1.5 million a decade later (IISS, 1996: 15-31).

Even after the hefty across-the-board reductions, however, the U.S. military power surpassed by a wide margin that of any Asian nation, including the region's two leading powers, Japan and the PRC. As is well known, Japan in 1997 had no nuclear weapons of any kind, no aircraft carriers, and no bombers, but only 63 surface combatants, 17 submarines, seven conventional air wings, and less than a quarter of a million active service personnel. The PRC had twice as many men and women on active duty as the U.S., 17-plus ICBMs, 54 surface combatants and 63 submarines, some nuclear-powered and most missile-equipped (IISS, 1996: 179-181, 184-186). For purposes of technology-dominated modern warfare, however, the PRC's overall military capability did not come even close to the U.S.'s.

In the first few years of the post-Cold War period, the Bush administration did announce plans, in 1990 and again in 1992, to make substantial cuts in the U.S. forces "forward-deployed" in the Asia-Pacific region (Song, 1995: 1088; Nye, 1995: 101; Johnson and Keehn, 1995: 103). In 1995, however, the Republican administration's policy was reversed by the Clinton administration in a new Department of Defense report entitled "United States Security Strategy for the East Asia-Pacific Region;" it committed Washington to maintaining the current force level of about 100,000 troops in East Asia as part of "a strategy based on American leadership" that was designed "to enable the U.S. to deal with two major regional conflicts nearly simultaneously" (Nye, 1995: 98, 102). Two years after the publication of the report, there are no signs of another reversal or significant modification of the U.S. policy; and the U.S. still seems determined to maintain its hegemonic position in the post-Cold War world in general and in Asia in particular.

The U.S. also has a conspicuous military presence in another, and more dubious, way in the region that appears to be trapped in a vicious security dilemma and arms race. IISS estimates the combined arms spending in real terms by all East Asian nations in 1996 at one-third more than in 1985 and one-quarter more than in 1992 (IISS, 1996: 174-201). While the leading Newly Industrialized Economies (NIEs) in the region, such as the ROK and Taiwan, appear intent on acquiring air and naval power projection capabilities by building dozens of frigate-class ships and buying hundreds of planes, the emergent NIEs, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, are as furiously modernizing their armed forces and, increasingly, investing in the development of blue water navies (Klare, 1993: 143, 144). The U.S. is by far the largest exporter of arms in the post-Cold War world, selling about $13 billion worth of them, or about 44% of the total worldwide arms trade, in 1995, while East Asia is the second largest regional importer of arms, next only to the Middle East and North Africa, taking nearly one-quarter of the traded arms in the same year (IISS, 1996: 273-275, 277). Moreover, the region is expected to surpass the Middle East and North Africa as the world's largest weapons market during the next decade, absorbing as much as three-quarters of those sold by the United States (Hanami, 1993: 606).

Meanwhile, the U.S. also remained by far the greatest economic power in the post-Cold War world, not to mention Asia, notwithstanding all the "declinist" comments and arguments. Compare, for example, its nominal gross domestic product - for reasons of technical difficulties in computing and cross-nationally comparing real-term numbers - with those of Asian nations' to realize how little, rather than how much, the gaps between the "hegemon" and the rest have actually narrowed. It is true that most Asian nations, particularly the PRC, experienced substantially higher rates of economic growth than the U.S. and most other nations in the early post-Cold War period. The data presented in Tables 1 and 2 together suggest, however, that it is far from certain that the impressively high rates achieved by some Asian economies represented a stable long-term regional trend such that they are likely to catch up with the U.S. within a few decades. If we assume, for argument's sake, that the economies of all the nations concerned grow during the next decade or so at their 1990-1995 average rates shown in Table 2, their GDP in the years 2000, 2005, and 2010 at 1995 price will be roughly as given in Table 3. On such an assumption, Japan's nominal GDP will fall from about 70% of American GDP in 1995 to about 65% in 2010; the PRC's exclusive of Taiwan's and Honk Kong's will rise from about 7% to about 23% and inclusive of Taiwan's and Hong Kong's to 32%; the ROK's from 5% to 11%; Indonesia's and Thailand's from 2% to 5%; Malaysia's and Singapore's from 1% to 3%; and the Philippines' will remain at just about 1%. In short, the U.S. will be as predominant an economic power relative to any individual Asian nation, including Japan and the PRC, at the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century as it was during the last decade of the twentieth century.
Table 1

Nominal GDP ($US billion) and Indices (U.S. = 100)

                                    1986                 1995

U.S.                            4,269 (100)           7,246 (100)
Japan                           1,986 (46.5)          5,111 (70.5)
PRC                               295 (6.9)             522 (7.2)
Taiwan                             75 (1.7)             261 (3.6)
Hong Kong                          40 (0.9)             144 (2.0)
South Korea                       109 (2.6)             380 (5.2)
Indonesia                          80 (1.8)             175 (2.4)
Thailand                           43 (1.0)             143 (2.0)
Malaysia                           28 (0.6)              85 (1.2)
Singapore                          18 (0.4)              84 (1.2)
Philippines                        30 (0.7)              74 (1.0)

Sources: based on data from Bank of Japan 1994: 31-32; Keizai Koho
Center, 1997: 17, Tables 2-6.
Table 2

Economic Growth Rates (Real Terms)

                1990   1991   1992   1993   1994   1995   1990-1995

U.S.             0.8    3.3    3.1    4.1    2.0    2.0      2.6
PRC              3.8    9.3   14.2   13.5  11.8    10.2     10.5
Taiwan           4.9    7.2    6.5    6.3   6.5     6.1      6.3
Hong Kong        3.4    5.1    6.3    6.4   5.4     4.6      5.2
Thailand        11.6    8.4    7.9    8.3   8.8     8.6      8.9
Malaysia         9.7    8.7    7.8    8.3   9.2     9.5      8.9
Singapore        8.1    7.0    6.4   10.4  10.2     8.8      8.5
South Korea      9.5    9.1    5.1    5.8   8.6     9.0      7.9
Indonesia        7.2    7.0    6.5    6.5   7.5     8.1      7.1
Philippines      3.0   -0.5    0.3    2.1   4.4     4.8      2.4
Japan            4.8    4.1    1.3    0.1   0.5     0.9      1.9

Sources: Keizai kikakucho, 1996: 294-295; Keizai Koho Center, 1997: 17,
Tables 2-6.
Table 3

Nominal GDP ($US billion) at 1990-1995 Growth Rates and Indices
(U.S. = 100)

                            2000           2005            2010

U.S.                    8,028 (100)    9,127 (100)    10,376 (100)
Japan                   5,616 (70.0)   6,171 (67.6)    6,779 (65.3)
PRC                       863 (10.7)   1,422 (15.6)    2,343 (22.6)
Taiwan                    354 (4.4)      480 (5.3)       651 (6.3)
Hong Kong                 185 (2.3)      239 (2.6)       307 (3.0)
PRC+Taiwan+Hong Kong    1,402 (17.5)   2,141 (23.5)    3,301 (31.8)
South Korea               556 (6.9)      812 (8.9)     1,188 (11.4)
Indonesia                 245 (3.0)      345 (3.8)       485 (4.7)
Thailand                  219 (2.7)      334 (3.7)       511 (4.9)
Malaysia                  131 (1.6)      201 (2.2)       307 (3.0)
Singapore                 126 (1.6)      191 (2.1)       288 (2.8)
Philippines                84 (1.0)       94 (1.0)       105 (1.0)

Sources: based on data in Tables 1 and 2.
Table 4

Asian Trade with Asia and the U.S. Amounts ($US billion) and Shares
of Trade with World (%)

Asian exports to        Asia             U.S.             World

1991                 395 (43.3)       197 (23.8)         830 (100)
1992                 409 (44.1)       218 (23.5)         928 (100)
1993                 455 (45.1)       246 (24.4)       1,008 (100)
1994                 533 (46.2)       278 (24.1)       1,155 (100)

Asian imports from      Asia             U.S.             World

1991                 290 (42.0)       111 (16.0)         690 (100)
1992                 292 (38.2)       116 (15.1)         765 (100)
1993                 320 (38.2)       124 (14.9)         836 (100)
1994                 384 (39.8)       138 (14.3)         965 (100)

Source: based on data from Yano, 1996: 348-349, Table 802.


Neither has the importance of the U.S. as the major trading partner of most Asian nations significantly diminished during the first few years of the post-Cold War period. As Table 4 indicates, Asian exports to Asia gradually increased between 1991 and 1994, but so did Asian exports to the U.S., though more slowly, while Asian imports from Asia and the U.S. increased in absolute dollar amounts but slightly decreased as shares of total imports from the world. In short, even as Asian trade rapidly expanded during the early post-Cold War period, the U.S. remained nearly as important a trading partner for most Asian nations as it had been in the late Cold War period.

Changing Asian Perceptions of the U.S. Role

The preponderant military and economic power maintained by the U.S. for potential use in the interest of peace and security in post-Cold War Asia is widely recognized and appreciated by local policy makers and academic specialists. For example, Prime Minister Mahathir of Malaysia, his reputation as an outspoken critic of the U.S. and its Asian policy notwithstanding, is said to be privately very sanguine about the American security presence in Asia (Ariff, 1995). As his defense minister would point out, not only does the U.S. navy now routinely conduct joint exercises with Malaysian and other Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) members' navies but, as already suggested, a massive amount of sophisticated U.S. defense technology is being transferred to the region to the delight of local governments and, especially, military leaders (Najib, 1995). The latest and most powerful signal of the recognition and reaffirmation of the continuing role of the U.S. in the emergent framework of regional military security relations comes from the region's southern fringe. In a dramatic reversal of policy, Australia began in 1996 to try to revive the virtually defunct 1951 Australia, New Zealand, and the United States (ANZUS) mutual security treaty and, as part of that effort, had Australian troops participate in a joint exercise with U.S. marines in the Northern Territory (IISS, 1996: 172-173). Canberra now envisages larger-scale exercises with U.S. and Indonesian forces in the near future.

From Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok to Seoul, however, the dominant image of the military role the U.S. plays, or should play, in post-Cold War Asia is no longer one of a hegemon but of the primus inter pares and "balancer" against Japan and the PRC. The PRC in particular is involved in actual or potential territorial disputes with a number of its neighbors. For example, its disputes with Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Brunei over the ownership of the Paracel (Xisha for the Chinese) and Spratly (Nansha for the Chinese) island groups in the South China Sea have been going on for decades and remain inflammable (Hyer, 1995). The Taiwan Strait, too, remains a potential arena of open and violent hostility between Beijing and Taipei, especially in light of the rounds of naval exercises and missile tests undertaken by the PRC in the wake of Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui's June 1995 visit to the U.S. (Tien, 1996: 33-37; Denoon and Frieman, 1996: 423).

The game that ASEAN leaders are playing here is a subtle and complicated one: It aims simultaneously at befriending and deterring the two potential regional hegemons, especially the PRC and to a lesser extent Japan. Thailand, for example, has carefully and successfully nurtured an "arm's length" but friendly relationship with the PRC since the 1970s and apparently intends to continue to maintain and strengthen it, but its leaders also want and expect the U.S. to keep its commitment under the 1991 U.S.-Philippine defense treaty (the "Manila Treaty") to defend Thailand, as well as the Philippines, in the event of foreign, i.e., implicitly the PRC's, aggression (Denoon and Frieman, 1996: 429-430).

Asian views of the U.S. and its role in military security relations in post-Cold War Asia are thus by no means wholly sanguine. For one thing, there is a widely shared perception that U.S. relative power has steadily declined and will continue to do so. The Malaysian trade minister puts it bluntly: "In places like Bosnia and the Persian Gulf, the U.S. is losing its leadership role and confidence. . . It remains one of the world's leaders, but only one of them" (Rafidab, 1995). She goes on to argue that U.S. power is "ascribed," i.e., other nations have been so conditioned that they continue to see U.S. power where it no longer exists. Evidence? "The U.S. can no longer take care of its own domestic problems, such as violence on its city streets." According to her deputy, the trouble is that the U.S. has become "too comfortable" and "too soft," and, as a result, has ceased to be sensitive and serious enough about its own problems (Fadzil, 1995). Nor can it understand the new world that is emerging around itself and, worse still, refuses to listen to others. Its prosperity has led to the erosion of its moral fiber and to its arrogance. While it remains a military superpower, even that power would soon and inevitably wane, should it fail to get its act together (Najib, 1995).

The closing of the two major U.S. bases in the Philippines that coincided with the end of the Cold War was the first, and so far the most dramatic, event indicative of the changing Asian perceptions of and attitudes towards the U.S. military security role in post-Cold War Asia. The event was a product partly of an unusual and unforeseen natural phenomenon, i.e., the eruption of a volcano, Mt. Pinatubo, that caused such heavy damage to the U.S. naval base at Subic Bay and, especially, Clark Air Force Base that Washington found it easy, if not unavoidable, to decide to abandon both bases. Before nature intervened, however, the Philippine Senate had refused to ratify an agreement to extend the lease for the use of the bases by U.S. forces for ten more years that had been hammered out by negotiators of the two governments. The Senators' action had been driven primarily by their resentment, shared by a broad segment of the general public, against the "unequal relations and U.S. domination" that, in their minds, the bases symbolized (Celoza and Sours, 1993: 102-103).

The event was surprising to many Asians outside the Philippines; several years later a senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official recalled it as "the most amazing diplomatic event" that had occurred during his entire professional career (anonymous, 1996b). The sentiment behind the event, however, was or has since become a commonplace in the region. The Malaysian defense minister, for example, flatly states: "We don't accept American bases on our territory. We have accepted Singapore's arrangements with the U.S. at their current level, but we will not accept further expansion of those arrangements" (Najib, 1995). The dean of the University of Malaya's economics faculty puts it nearly as bluntly: "We will not tolerate anything like the Subic Bay, although the use of our facilities by the U.S. military would be all right; that would work as deterrence against Chinese power" (Ariff, 1995). His Thai counterparts express essentially the same view - that U.S. bases are unnecessary, irrelevant to regional security, and the needs for them are invented or manufactured by Americans (Lee, 1995; Chaiwat, 1995). According to one of them, these views reflect to an important extent the growing impatience of many Southeast Asians with the perceived arrogance of U.S. policy makers, as well as the Southeast Asians' growing self-confidence (Chaiwat, 1995; cf. Rapkin, 1994: 122).

Even in the ROK, unquestionably one of the most important allies of the U.S. in the region in both the Cold War period and the early phase of the post-Cold War era, the image of Seoul-Washington relations is no longer what it used to be back in the 1960s, when the ROK was nearly totally dependent upon the U.S. both militarily and economically. The ROK still depends on the U.S. and to most Koreans, the U.S. remains the best ally. "Times are changing," however, as an opposition leader puts it, and the U.S. is no longer in a position to impose its will on others, as President Clinton's initial hard-line policy on the North Korean nuclear issue proved (Cho, 1994; Faculty of the National Defense College, 1994). Moreover, U.S. policy on many issues important to the ROK tends to be uninformed and ineffectual. President Clinton's closest advisers are said to have little experience in East Asian, particularly Korean, affairs and often give the president wrong advice. Former President Carter is no exception, and his negotiation in Pyongyang on the nuclear issue yielded an agreement that called for all concessions by the South and none by the North (Faculty of the National Defense College, 1994).

Seoul-Washington relations have visibly deteriorated in the last few years, first over the issue of North Korean nuclear reactors and, more recently, over the infiltration of the ROK's coastal waters by a North Korean submarine with two dozen or so commandos. The handling of the nuclear crisis by Washington upset many ROK leaders who apparently believed that, its tough talk notwithstanding, the U.S. government was interested from the beginning primarily in defusing the crisis, rather than ridding North Korea of every nuclear bomb that it might possess and every reactor that might be used to make one, and had no serious intention to impose sanctions on Pyongyang for its refusal to open the suspect plant sites to international inspection (Cho, 1994; Jeong, 1994; Faculty of the National Defense College, 1994). President Kim Young Sam characterized Washington's negotiating posture "naive and overly flexible," while Washington nonetheless signaled its interest in exchanging liaison offices with Pyongyang as a step toward the establishment of formal diplomatic relations (Lee and Sohn, 1995: 33). When a North Korean submarine and commandos made a totally unexpected and undetected appearance off the ROK's eastern coast in the fall of 1996, Washington's attitude was again criticized in Seoul as much too lenient and too ready to negotiate a compromise with Pyongyang ("Submarine Tactics," 1996: 5; Hoon, 1996: 23; Koh, 1997: 6-7; Pollack, 1997: 105-106).

In Tokyo, too, perceptions of U.S. power and its role in post-Cold War Asia's military security have begun to change, if less rapidly and visibly. As an American academic specialist puts it, "the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty remains vital. No longer as an instrument of active defense or even deterrence, but more as an insurance policy" (Morley, 1995: 7). There was a time when that treaty was regarded almost as sacrosanct by leaders of the Japanese government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), but that time has passed and the treaty is now fair game in any serious discussion of future Japanese foreign policy in general and U.S.-Japanese relations in particular in the Japanese government. In the words of one senior Ministry of Finance (MOF) official, "[A]s the Soviet threat recedes in our memory, so does the awe in which U.S. military power was once held" (Kuroda, 1996).

In the emergent post-Cold War strategic setting, many Asians find the U.S. attitude and behavior that they were willing to accept during the Cold War period increasingly irksome and unbearable. Washington now often appears and sounds "unilateralist," as the term is used in, for example, Bhagwati and Patrick's criticisms of U.S. policy toward Asia (Bhagwati and Patrick, 1990; Duesterberg, 1997: 189). A Malaysian security policy specialist thus points out that the U.S. tends to try to impose its own ideas on governments in the region on such issues as democratization and human rights (Zakaria, 1995). He goes on to explain that Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir's tremendous popularity not only among Malaysians but throughout the region derives largely from his refusal to do Washington's bidding and his insistence that Americans listen to Asians, too, for a change. Other Malaysians also insist that the U.S. has been a big bully (Fong, 1995; Ariff, 1995). So does Thailand's deputy foreign minister who observes that Washington tends to try to solve a problem by unilateral legislative action, rather than by consultation and mutual compromise with other governments (Surin, 1995). And so does a senior officer of the Thai army who says that Washington takes the position that intervention in other nations' internal affairs on issues such as democracy and human rights is not only necessary but desirable without understanding the complexity and delicacy of such issues in most nations in the region (Boonsrang, 1995).

From these critics' perspective, the way President Clinton hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November 1993 was by "summoning" Asian leaders to Seattle without consulting with them in advance (Khien, 1995). That was why Mahathir refused to attend the meeting, to Clinton's great surprise and embarrassment. Mahathir's decision apparently struck a sympathetic chord among many Asians, particularly younger diplomats who are increasingly impatient of U.S. leaders' "high-handed" and "condescending" attitude toward Asians. As a senior Thai diplomat remarks, Washington may be right on a number of important issues, such as human rights and copyrights, but not in the way it "tries to dictate or preach to us all the time. . . as if it were the only government in the world" (Sutichai, 1995). In a similar vein, professors at the National Defense College in Seoul complain that the so-called partnership quickly tums into a unilateral decision by Washington when the issue at stake affects its own vital interests (Faculty of the National Defense College, 1994). Washington thus chose to negotiate directly and by themselves with Pyongyang on the nuclear issue, leaving Seoul to feel excluded from a negotiation on an issue that directly affected its vital interests (Lee, 1994: 12; Hoon, 1994: 22).

The change in Asian policy makers' views of and attitudes toward the U.S. also reflects increasingly vocal and effective public and media opinion and thus is to an important extent a by-product of a process of democratization under way in the region. The increasingly critical public and media opinion of the U.S. in turn is often a response to specific actions and behavior of U.S. military forces deployed and troops stationed within the region, rather than general U.S. policies set in Washington. For example, the shift in the ROK government's attitude toward the U.S. and the U.S.-ROK alliance is a by-product of the anti-military democratization movement that emerged in the 1970s and led by 1987 to an effective popular demand for an open and direct presidential election. The movement began to take on an increasingly articulate anti-American character in the wake of the 1980 popular uprising against the military regime and its brutal and bloody suppression in Kwangju City, an incident in which the U.S. was implicated, if not directly involved (McCann, 1997: 3).

Likewise, a 1995 rape incident involving three U.S. servicemen from a local military base triggered a powerful anti-base campaign in Japan's southern-most prefecture, Okinawa, generating in its wake, as one observer puts it, "a recognition across the political spectrum of the need to revisit the value and relevance of a highly encumbering alliance designed for a different era" (Pollack, 1996: 9; Pollack, 1997: 102). The development did not prevent Prime Minister Hashimoto from committing his government and nation to not only maintaining but strengthening that alliance into the next century when he met President Clinton in Tokyo in the spring of 1996 (Holloway and Moffett, 1996: 14-16). Nor did it prevent the newly appointed U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen from telling both the Japanese and Korean governments in the spring of 1997 that the U.S. would not reduce its armed forces deployed in East Asia even after the reunification of the two Koreas (Asahi shinbun, 1997: 2 and 4). The storm over the rape incident thus appears to have blown over without causing either an immediate change in the U.S. military posture in the region or a permanent damage to the U.S.-Japanese alliance. It has proven, however, that the issue of U.S. military bases and troops has now become nearly as sensitive and volatile in Japan as in the rest of Asia.

As suggested in the first section of our discussion, the U.S. remains an indispensable market for many Asian exports. As a Thai academic specialist puts it, "pragmatism dictates that Thailand, and Southeast Asia as a whole, hold on to their access to U.S. markets" (Chaiwat, 1995). Nonetheless, U.S. economic foreign policy in general and trade policy in particular find many critics in the region. Some argue, for example, that Washington tells the governments in the region to liberalize their economies, while the U.S. itself remains protectionist in many areas (Somchin, 1995). This is presumably because, while the administration wants to play a leading role in the campaign to liberalize the entire world economy, the U.S. Congress is staunchly protectionist. As a result, Washington's message tends to be contradictory and confusing. Others point out that the serious domestic economic problems it faces, notably the "twin" budget and trade deficits, lead Washington to use any and all means at its disposal, including the Central Intelligence Agency for economic espionage, to advance U.S. national interests at the expense of others (anonymous, 1995a).

Similar complaints and criticisms are heard in Tokyo, too. A MOF official thus remarks that the Clinton administration, now unburdened with Cold War considerations, frequently makes most unreasonable demands in bilateral trade negotiations (Kuroda, 1996). This is important because Washington has become far more preoccupied than during the Cold War period with domestic political, economic, and, above all, electoral concerns, and thus conspicuously "inward-looking," an observation offered both by a Thai economist close to his government and, off the record, by a senior Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official (Teerana, 1995; anonymous, 1996b). The trend has led, according to the Japanese official, both to substantially increased investments in domestic manufacturing industries, especially in the high-tech sector, and to the emergence of a view of foreign policy as a mere extension of domestic politics and policies. It has led also, according to a Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) official, to the virtual absence of Asian and, particularly, Japanese affairs specialists among Clinton's political appointees (Yamada, 1996; Pollack, 1996: 1). This lacuna in relevant regional expertise at the upper levels of the administration in turn encourages a high-handed and counterproductive negotiating strategy and posture egged on by "revisionist" scholars. The frequent recourse to the threat of Section 301 of the 1988 Omnibus Trade Bill, or the so-called "Super 301," tends to blow way out of proportion the importance of an even minor trade issue (anonymous, 1996a).

The Japanese are miffed particularly by the revisionist insistence that Japan is a modern mercantilist nation that behaves, both at home and abroad, in a way fundamentally different from and against the interests of the U.S. and other Western industrial democracies (Johnson, 1982; Tyson, 1993; van Wolferen, 1989). A MOFA official comments: "The U.S. used to insist on adhering strictly to universal rules, but has now apparently adopted a theory that says that Japanese are heathen and thus tries to mix two incompatible approaches in negotiations with us" (Nishimiya, 1996). The official goes on to point out that this is a particularly unfortunate development at a time when a new universal set of trade rules has been introduced under the World Trade Organization (WTO). The presence of the new trade organization and rules would lead many Asian or European governments to seek to avail themselves of any significant concession Japan might make to the U.S. in a bilateral trade negotiation and in effect makes it very difficult and unlikely for Japan to make such a concession (Nishimiya, 1996; Toyoda, 1996).

In the opinion of Japanese negotiators and policy makers, the revisionist perspective and arguments are untimely also in light of the significant change that the Japanese economy has undergone in recent years. A MOFA official admits that there was a time when Japanese markets were heavily protected and over-regulated and that fact seriously handicapped Japanese negotiators in international trade negotiations, especially with the U.S. (anonymous, 1996a). That was a time when MOFA officials invested a great deal of their time and energy in an effort to persuade domestic interest groups to change their ways. Since then, however, Japanese tariffs have been cut so deeply, import quotas raised, customs procedures simplified, and quality certification standards relaxed that Japanese markets have become overall as free as any other Western industrial nation, except the U.S. (Nishimiya, 1996). That is why a number of foreign firms, including U.S. companies, have successfully penetrated Japanese markets, as demonstrated by U.S.-made semiconductors that now claim one-third of the Japanese microchip market (Shikata, 1996; Yamada, 1996).

These official claims substantially exaggerate the actual extent of the liberalization and deregulation of Japanese markets, especially in such sectors as telecommunications and financial services (Vogel, 1996). Their claims, however, reflect not only their own personal beliefs but also those of top Japanese leaders and mass media as well, as suggested by the steadfast refusal of Prime Ministers Morihiro Hosokawa and Ryutaro Hashimoto to yield to President Clinton's demands on the automobile issue during the 1994-1995 Framework Talks and the stream of favorable press comments with which their "tough" posture was greeted at home (Yamada, 1996; Schoppa, 1997: 271-272). In fact, Japanese politicians, bureaucrats, industry leaders, and media closed ranks and put up a virtually monolithic front, reminiscent of the image of "Japan, Inc." of two decades ago, against Washington's "unreasonable" demands not only in the automobile dispute but also in many other recent U.S.-Japanese economic disputes, such as those over film and insurance businesses. Moreover, their views and arguments by and large prevailed and led Washington either to withdraw or substantially pare down their original demands (Toyoda, 1996; anonymous, 1996a). President Clinton, for a change, brought up no specific demand on an economic issue but chose to concentrate on defense policy issues at the April 1996 summit meeting ("The Chips Are Down," 1996: 56).

The Emergent Institutional Framework of Regional Security and the U.S.

Asia has never been as well defined as a region, much less as effectively integrated, as Europe. It remains today one characterized by great political, economic, and cultural diversity and complexity. Most nations in the region, especially in its Southeastern sub-region, however, share some important common experiences and interests, especially in their shared perception of having long been subjected to domination and control by Western powers and kept seriously disadvantaged and deprived, both culturally and economically. This shared perception leads them to seek to achieve their common goals, such as, above all, national sovereignty, security, and economic development, through regional and sub-regional cooperation. "Cooperation is the key word under Pax Asiana"' as a senior trade official in the Malaysian government puts it (Chua, 1995).

The oldest and so far the most successful intergovernmental organization in the region is ASEAN. Founded in 1967 as a group of five staunch Cold War allies of the U.S., the organization has grown into a group of seven nations in the sub-region, with three more - Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar (Burma) - scheduled to be admitted soon. The existence of ASEAN has facilitated, directly or indirectly, cooperation among nations in the sub-region, such as that between Malaysia and Thailand in planning joint industrial development projects, among Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand in coordinating efforts to penetrate third nation markets, and among Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Brunei in the development of the lower Mekong (Najib, 1995; Surin, 1995; anonymous, 1995a). ASEAN is thus undoubtedly regarded by many Southeast Asians as a very valuable asset to be jealously guarded and carefully nurtured.

There is, perhaps not surprisingly, a certain amount of chariness, sometimes bordering on racism, in some Southeast Asian political leaders' and academic specialists' attitudes toward the sub-regional organization. When asked whether Australia and New Zealand might be admitted to ASEAN, for example, a Malaysian Education Ministry official, a Thai Foreign Ministry official, and a Thai economics professor all say categorically no, because Australians and New Zealanders are both "Europeans" and neither share "Asian" culture (Fong, 1995; anonymous, 1995b; Suthiphand, 1995). A similarly racist edge was evident in Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir's 1990 proposal to create a new regional economic organization, to be named East Asian Economic Grouping (EAEG) or Caucus (EAEC), which would include all Asian nations, but exclude not only Australia and New Zealand but also the U.S. and Canada (Rapkin, 1994:119-120). Touted for a while as the wave of the future by Mahathir's ministers, the scheme has been effectively buried in the face of loud and clear objections by the nations to be excluded, notably the U.S., and quiet demur by some of those to be included, such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and Japan (Rafidah, 1995; Fadzil, 1995; Sukhumbhand, 1995; "Mahathir's high hopes," 1995: 26-27; Rapkin, 1994: 119-120).

Far more acceptable to most nations within or near the Asia-Pacific region, and therefore more successful, have been APEC, founded in 1989 largely on Australian initiative and concerned mainly with economic issues, and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), founded in 1994 under ASEAN auspices and concerned mainly with regional military and security issues. Both include all four non-Asian Pacific Rim nations which were to be excluded from the EAEG. Largely under their leadership and pressure, APEC has been the main vehicle for trade liberalization in the region (Elek, 1994). ARF, on its part, has functioned so far mainly as a confidence-building measure (Surin, 1995). It has been intended and has actually begun to reduce mutual suspicion and distrust among nations in the region, thus potentially blunting the spiral of the regional arms race (Sutichai, 1995).

In the aftermath of the EAEC controversy, most Asian political leaders and academic specialists envisage emergent regional security and political-economic regimes supported by these regional organizations, in or around which the U.S., Japan, the PRC, and, in particular issue areas, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Russia, and even the European Union (EU) will play important, and in some cases leading, roles. They insist, however, that all nations in the region must be treated as equals, that none should be allowed to dominate regional politics or economy, and that all business of regional interest and concern must be conducted on the basis of consensus decisions, whether within or outside any of the extant or prospective regional organizations (Sutichai, 1995). As a former Australian trade official suggests, the tremendous enthusiasm for regional cooperation currently found throughout the Asia-Pacific region is tied to the belief in and insistence on decision making by consultation and consensus (Rapkin, 1994:118). These observations echo Sultan Bolkiah's call for strict observance of the rules of musyawarah (consultation) and mufakat (consensus) in his opening speech at the summer 1995 ASEAN meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan ("South-East Asia's sweet tooth," 1995: 25).

Conclusion

As we have seen, nations in post-Cold War Asia are engaged simultaneously in a very expensive and potentially destructive arms race with one another and in cooperative and constructive institution-building and alliance-forming efforts. If we accept Morrow's logic and argument, they are thus rationally dealing with their security dilemma:

(In order to enhance their security) nations should pursue policies that combine both arming and forming alliances. The marginal cost of each source of security rises as more security is obtained by that means. . . A nation boosts its security at first by adopting the cheaper means. Once the marginal cost of that means exceeds the marginal cost of the other, it uses the other means if it desires greater security. Overtime, then, a nation's security policy almost never relies solely on either arms or allies but rather on a combination of the two. . . (Morrow, 1993: 214).

They must be viewed just as rational in accepting, even welcoming the continuing U.S. military and economic presence in their region long after the end of the Cold War at the same time that they complain about and often castigate Washington's "unilateralism." It is by no means the Malaysian prime minister and his subordinates alone who charge Washington with an intention to continue to "dominate" and "rule" the region (Vatikiotis et al, 1997: 15). Beijing, for example, has made it abundantly clear that it will not bend to U.S. demands on such issues as Taiwan, human rights, arms trade, nuclear proliferation, intellectual property, etc. Washington's objections to ASEAN's plan to admit Burma under military rule as the organization's newest member have made virtually all ASEAN members support the original plan more strongly than before (Vatikiotis, 1997).

The U.S. thus has problems in dealing with post-Cold War Asia. The main problem, however, is not, to borrow Oran Young's and Joseph Nye's terminology, a structural one resulting from a decline of its "hard" military or economic power, but an entrepreneurial and/or intellectual one reflecting inadequacy in the exercise of "soft" power (Young, 1991; Nye, 1991). The problem is closely related to the "inward-looking" tendency and scarcity of Asian affairs expertise in the recent U.S. administrations, especially the current one, that a Japanese official and a Thai scholar pointed out. It may not be any easier to solve a soft-power problem than to solve a hard-power problem. Without solving the problem, however, the U.S. is likely to fail to continue to play as critical and effective a role in shaping the security environment of post-Cold War Asia as it played in defining that of the region during the Cold War era.

NOTES

1 This article relies heavily on information derived from personal interviews with a number of politicians, government officials, and scholars conducted in recent years in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, and Tokyo. Travels were partially financed by the Special Research Project on the New International System based at the University of Tsukuba and the Research Project on the Redefinition of the Common Agenda and Cooperation Between the United States and Japan based at the International University of Japan. For local arrangements, we relied very much on Ms. Khadijah Md. Khalid of the Faculty of Economics and Administration, The University of Malaya; Mr. Thitinan Pongsudhirak of the Department of International Relations, Chulalongkorn University; and Nantiya Tipmanee of Central Department Store, Bangkok. We would like to take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation of the generous assistance provided by the directors of the two research projects, especially Professor Hideo Sato of the University of Tsukuba and Professor Chihiro Hosoya of the International University of Japan, and our younger colleagues in Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. We would like also to thank all those who agreed to be interviewed and gave us so much of their very busy time. Their positions and titles given in the list of references are those current at the time of the interviews.

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Shigeko N. Fukai received her Ph.D. in 1977 from the University of Tennessee and taught in the Department of Political Science at Auburn University, Alabama from 1978 to 1984, and administered Japan programs in the College of Business of the same university from 1985 to 1994. She has since joined the Law Faculty of Okayama University. She has also held visiting appointments at Tsukuba University, Tokyo University, and Harvard University. She has authored or co-authored a number of articles, including, "An Organizing Principle for a Sustainable International Order," Okyama Law Journal (1995); and contributed to Japan, NAFTA and Europe, edited by T. David Mason and Abdul M. Turay (1994); and Comparative Politics at the Crossroads, edited by Mark Kesselman, Joel Krieger, and William A. Joseph (1996).

Haruhiro Fukui received his Ph.D. in 1968 from the Australian National University and taught in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, from that same year to 1994. He has since joined the faculty of the College of International Studies at the University of Tsukuba. He has held visiting appointments at several other universities and research institutes, including the University of Sydney, Oxford, Colegio de Mexico, Brookings Institution, and East-West Center. He is the author or co-author of a number of books and articles, including, most recently, contributions to Structure and Policy in Japan and the United States, edited by Peter F. Cowhey and Mathew D. McCubbins (1995); Comparative Politics at the Crossroads, edited by Mark Kesselman, Joel Krieger, and William A. Joseph (1996); and Passages to Power: Legislative Recruitment in Advanced Democracies, edited by Pippa Norris (1997).
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Title Annotation:Zones of Amity, Zones of Enmity: The Prospects for Economic and Military Security in Asia
Author:Fukui, Haruhiro; Fukai, Shigeko N.
Publication:Journal of Asian and African Studies
Date:Feb 1, 1998
Words:8801
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