By James J. Przystup and Phillip C. Saunders
INSS Strategic Perspectives 26
The Asia-Pacific region is of exponentially increasing importance to the United States.
Developments there affect vital U.S. economic, security, and political interests. Unfettered access
to the region is a strategic imperative to allow the United States to protect and advance its
wide-ranging national interests.
The Donald Trump administration, in the face of a rapidly evolving strategic environment,
will need to develop policies to sustain the U.S. presence and safeguard American interests in
the Asia-Pacific region.
Defining trends in the Asia-Pacific region include:
Although countries in the Asia-Pacific region are primarily focused on economic development,
a number of security challenges could threaten regional stability and damage U.S. interests.
We advocate a regional strategy focused on working with U.S. allies, partners, and multilateral
organizations to build a rules-based regional order that includes China and advances
U.S. economic, security, and political interests.
The starting point for a strategic approach to the Asia-Pacific region is to reinforce existing
bilateral alliances with Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Australia, the Philippines, and
Thailand to deal with specific security threats. The alliances also provide a good foundation for
expanding regional security cooperation. The United States should:
If the United States emphasizes its alliances, expands security cooperation with other partners,
and actively engages in regional multilateral institutions and dialogues, it will be able to
deal with China from a position of strength.
The mixture of cooperation and competition in the U.S.-China relationship will present
the new administration with a defining challenge given China’s increasing ability to affect the
broad range of U.S. global, regional, and domestic interests. The policy challenge will be to
maximize cooperation while competing successfully in areas where U.S. and Chinese interests
The United States will have to deal with the rapidly evolving nuclear and missile threat
posed by North Korea, the most destabilizing element in the Asia-Pacific security environment.
Over the next 4 years, the United States will be challenged to maintain its leadership of a
rules-based order in the Asia-Pacific region. Sustained U.S. involvement and close coordination
with regional allies and partners will allow the Trump administration not only to meet the challenges
in the Asia-Pacific region, but also to grasp the opportunities.
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