Asian Arms Races and the Rebalance

It’s been more than a year and a half since the Obama Administration released its revised defense strategic guidance, but there is still a lack of consensus on what the US military is—and more importantly should be—doing in the Asia-Pacific region, said Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), House Armed Services Committee chairman. During the HASC’s July 24 hearing on the US rebalance to the region, McKeon asked the witnesses, including academics and former senior defense officials, about the increases in military spending across Asia, their effect on regional political stability, and if the US rebalance would accelerate or dampen those arms modernization efforts. While Asia has grown more democratic and economically prosperous in the past two decades, countries that can afford it are buying weapons or modernizing their militaries, said Michael Auslin, director of Japanese studies at the American Enterprise Institute. Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia Program at the Center for a New American Security, said Asian states are hedging because they are unsure of American “staying power” in the region. US near-term and long-term activities must balance out in order to dampen unnecessary arms competition, he said.