US Interests at Risk

Overlapping territorial claims, resource deposits, and an increasingly strong and assertive Chinese military presence are putting US leadership in the South China Sea to the test, said two Center for a New American Security analysts on Tuesday. During a panel discussion in Washington, D.C., on CNAS’ new report, “Cooperation from Strength: The United States, China, and the South China Sea,” two of the report’s authors said the United States should not diminish its air and naval presence in the region, since doing so would make countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines face the prospect of fundamentally altering their policies to fall in line with Chinese power. The United States is merely upholding a rules-based order that has held for decades, said Patrick Cronin, senior director of CNAS’s Asia Pacific Security program. While it must seek improved dialogue and transparency with China, it should do so from a position of strength, along with its allies, he asserted. The US presence is key to enabling its allies to build up their own positions and military strength, so that the United States can eventually “work [its] way out of a job” there, said Robert Kaplan, CNAS senior fellow. (Event webpage)