US needs strong military presence in Asia
WASHINGTON, Sunday (AFP) - The United States can ill afford cutbacks
in military capabilities in Asia, warns a report on regional military
needs as Washington plans to reduce dependence on bases and troops
The report by 14 experts assesses how Asian states are modernizing
their military programs in response to China's rise as a regional power,
counterterrorism, changes in US force posture and local security
Highlighting three possible "conflict" scenarios - China-Taiwan war,
strife on the Korean peninsula and nuclear catastrophe in South Asia -
Michael O'Hanlon, an arms control expert from The Brookings Institution,
said the United States and Asian allies "must retain a wide range of
They include higher-technology "transformative" assets and large
numbers of infantry forces, he said in the report, "Military
modernization in an era of uncertainty" compiled by the Seattle-based
National Bureau of Asian Research.
"The United States will continue to require the use of a wide range
of military bases in Asia, and Washington should place a premium on
maintaining diversity in such arrangements," he said.
Given the great distances necessary in transporting military forces
from the United States to the Western Pacific, O'Hanlon said, such base
facilities would continue to claim "paramount importance."
"Those who argue that defense transformation will radically reduce
the need for overseas bases do not make a convincing case," O'Hanlon
A US military transformation plan was unveiled last year to close up
hundreds of American facilities overseas no longer needed to meet Cold
War threats and to bring home up to 70,000 uniformed personnel within a
It was touted as the most comprehensive restructuring of US forces
overseas since the end of the Korean War and aimed at deploying a more
agile and more flexible force by taking advantage of modern military
"Whether through defense transformation or changing force posture in
Asia, the reshaping of US armed forces should not ignore the wide range
of possible and quite demanding scenarios in Asia capable of threatening
US security," O'Hanlon said.
The possible scenarios: a surprise attack by nuclear-armed North
Korea on US ally South Korea, China's seizure of Taiwan by means of an
amphibious attack, Pakistan's atomic weapons falling into the hands of
the Al-Qaeda terror network or an India-Pakistan nuclear war over
The five US treaty allies in Asia are Japan, Australia, South Korea,
Thailand, and the Philippines. Singapore, a strong supporter of US
military presence in the region, allows American forces use of
facilities in the island state.
Ashley Tellis, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace, said in the 461-page report that the United States
would be called upon to "maintain or even increase" its role as regional
security guarantor for a number of Asian states.
"This will require the US to preserve its current military dominance,
protect its existing alliances, and develop new ties to major states
that are not allied or opposed to Washington," he said.
"Not doing so," Tellis said, "would likely lead to military
build-ups, increased tension, and even nuclear weapons proliferation."
On China, he said although its growing military power dominated the
strategic thinking of the United States and other regional powers, Asian
states felt explicit security competition with China would "undermine"
Yet, as a safeguard, many Asian powers are developing military
capabilities and outlaying defense expenditures as a safeguard against
China's rise, he said.