Hawaii key in U.S. plans for Pacific region

January 7, 2011 

As the Honolulu Star Advertiser reports, despite the Pentagon’s announced budget cuts of $78 billion, the message from the 10th annual Hawaii military partnership conference is that “Hawaii is of extreme strategic importance” to the United States because of our location in the critically important Asia Pacific region and because of the rising economic and military power of China, which the U.S. hopes to contain.

The military-business love fest was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, the same organization that conspired with U.S. elites in the 19th century to obtain a Treaty of Reciprocity, which allowed the U.S. to use Ke Awalau o Pu’uloa (aka Pearl Harbor) in exchange for dropping tariffs on Hawaiian sugar imports to the U.S.  The Treaty of Reciprocity was opposed by many Hawaiian citizens because it was rightfully seen as an erosion of Hawaiian sovereignty and a threat to one of the richest food resources for the island of O’ahu.   This treaty, which could be considered a precursor to modern neoliberal trade agreements, was a key  event in the U.S. takeover of Hawai’i.   Today, Hawai’i is still hostage to the economic and military interests that engineered the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the U.S. occupation of the islands.  The Hawai’i military partnership conference and upcoming APEC summit in Honolulu only confirms this fact.

According to the Star Advertiser article, the U.S. military population in Hawai’i is approximately 110,000 (50,000 active-duty military members and 60,000 dependents), which is around 8.5 percent of the total population of Hawai’i. Large scale military-driven population transfer of Americans to Hawai’i have had major negative social and cultural impacts on Kanaka Maoli, not the least of which is the loss of self-determination.  The international community understands that the influx of settlers to an occupied territory, such as Palestine, Tibet and East Timor, constitute serious human rights problems. However the influx of American settlers in Hawai’i or Guam have not gotten the same attention.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary said “There’s no question in my mind that the importance of this region, the Asia-Pacific region and in particular Hawaii, and the vital role it will play in the future is not going to diminish.”  This means that the threat of militarization will continue or worsen for places like Korea, Okinawa, Guam and Hawai’i.  Peace and justice movements in this region will have to grow our movements and strengthen our networks within the region and with allies in the U.S.   We need to call on peace and justice movements within the U.S. to understand developments in the Asia Pacific region, and especially the importance small island bases in the expansion and maintenance of U.S. empire, and to step up their own efforts to dismantle the oppressive “empire of bases” (to borrow a phrase from the late Chalmers Johnson). Now that fiscal realities are finally forcing some in Washington to consider the taboo subject of cutting the military budget, the U.S. peace and justice movements have an opportunity to advocate for the reduction of the military troops and bases around the world.

The article also reports:

Lt. Gen. Benjamin “Randy” Mixon, head of the U.S. Army in the Pacific and headquartered at Fort Shafter, said the Army is looking at shifting Makua Valley away from its past use as an intensive live-fire training facility and bringing in “more relevant” training focused on roadside bomb detection.

Due to a lawsuit, there has been no live-fire training in Makua Valley since 2004.

Another focus would be unmanned aerial vehicle training using Makua, which has unrestricted airspace, Mixon said. In conjunction with those changes, the Army is planning to move some live-fire training to new facilities it would build at Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island.

So the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement being prepared for construction at Pohakuloa is related to the shifting of training activities from Makua to Pohakuloa.

The language coming out of these kinds of conferences also reveals a lot about how the military and businesses view Hawai’i.   Hawai’i is used to serve certain interests.  Our lands, seas and skies are used.  Our people are used.  The entire Pacific ocean is used.  It reveals the arrogance of empire.  Empire never asks permission of the people in its far flung possessions.  It imposes, announces, decides.

Adm. Robert F. Willard, commander in chief of the Pacific Command said that the Pentagon is focusing its attention on the Asia Pacific Region.  Willard said. “We’ll be discussing Pacific Command’s vision for a future posture that is an improved posture in the region — not a lessening posture by any means, but rather a reorienting of some of our forces.”   “Improved posture”?   As in stop slouching?  Interesting language.  It sounds like a bit of spin on possible budget cuts.  We’ll see.


After NATO Summit, U.S. To Intensify Military Drive Into Asia

November 22, 2010 

“The Pentagon has indeed marked this as its Asia-Pacific century.”


November 17, 2010

After NATO Summit, U.S. To Intensify Military Drive Into Asia

Rick Rozoff

Barack Obama, the latest rotating imperator of the first global empire, will arrive in Lisbon on November 19 to receive the plaudits of 27 North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies and secure their continued fealty on issues ranging from the war in Afghanistan to a continental interceptor missile system, the continued deployment of American tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, participation in the Pentagon’s cyber warfare plans and expanded military missions in the planet’s south and east.

Perfunctory discussions of minor details notwithstanding, strictly pro forma to maintain the myth of NATO being a “military alliance of democratic states in Europe and North America,” the banners and pennants of 26 European nations, Canada and dozens of other countries contributing troops for the Afghan mission will be lowered in the presence of the leader of the world imperium.

No fewer than 38 European nations have supplied NATO troops for the Afghanistan-Pakistan war as well as providing training grounds and transport centers to support the war effort. As envisioned for at least a century, through peaceful means or otherwise, Europe has been united, not so much by the European Union as under the NATO flag and on the killing fields of Afghanistan. It is now relegated to the role of pre-deployment training area and forward operating base for military campaigns downrange: The Middle East, Africa and Asia.

So uncritically and unquestioningly compliant has Europe been in the above regards that Obama and the governing elite in the imperial metropolis as a whole have already looked beyond the continent for additional military partners. With the exception of fellow members of the NATO Quint – Britain, Germany, France and Italy (Britain more and Italy less than the others) – Alliance partners are accorded the same status and assigned the same functions as American territories like Puerto Rico, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands: Geopolitically convenient locations for live-fire military training and for troop, warplane and warship deployments.

Two millennia ago the Pax Romana of Augustus brought roads and ports, aqueducts and irrigation, amphitheaters and libraries, and Greek writers from Aristotle to Aeschylus to occupied territories. Bellum Americanum burdens its vassals and tributaries with military bases, interceptor missile batteries, McDonald’s and Lady Gaga.

In Lisbon Obama will chastise his NATO and NATO partnership auxiliaries and foederati, as is the prerogative and wont of the global suzerain and as his predecessor George W. Bush has done recently, for being chary of expending more blood and treasure for the war in Afghanistan. However, he will also display the magnanimity befitting his preeminent stature by patting his European satraps on their bowed heads and intoning, “Well done, good and faithful servants. You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”

With the European continent placed securely under the multi-circled Achilles shield of NATO, U.S. nuclear weapons, an interceptor missile system and a cyber warfare command, Washington is moving to realms as yet not completely subjugated.
Africa has been assigned to the three-year-old U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and perhaps only five of the continent’s 54 nations – Eritrea, Libya, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Sudan and Zimbabwe – have avoided becoming ensnared in bilateral military ties with the Pentagon and concomitant U.S-led military exercises and deployments.

The U.S. has also expanded its military presence in the Middle East: Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Yemen.

Two years ago Washington reactivated its Fourth Fleet for the Caribbean Sea and Central and South America and last year’s coup in Honduras and this September’s attempted coup in Ecuador are proof that the U.S. will not allow developments in Latin America to pursue their natural course unimpeded.

The U.S. has intensified efforts to forge and expand military alliances and deployments in the Asia-Pacific region, but there is still a small handful of countries there not willing to accept a subordinate role in American geostrategic designs. They are, to varying degrees and in differing manners, Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and Myanmar. Attempts to replicate the “color revolution” model used in former Soviet republics in Myanmar and Iran since 2007 have failed, “regime change” plans for North Korea are of another nature, and neither China nor Russia appears immediately susceptible to equivalents of the so-called Rose, Orange, Tulip and Twitter revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova, respectively. The preferred technique being applied to Russia at the moment is cooption, though its success is not guaranteed as the U.S. and NATO military build-up around Russia’s borders continues unabated.

What’s left is the military expedient. In the first half of November the quadrivirate in charge of U.S. foreign policy – President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen – all toured the Asia-Pacific area. Collectively they visited ten nations there: India, Indonesia, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Tonga.

Clinton and Gates were in Malaysia at separate times and both joined Mullen on November 8 for the annual Australia-United States Ministerial (AUSMIN) meeting in Melbourne, where the U.S. military chief called the 21st century the “Pacific century.” [1]

In India Obama secured what William Hartung, Director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation, estimated to be the sixth largest arms deal in U.S. history. [2]

In Australia, Gates and Mullen won a backroom arrangement to move U.S. military forces into several Australian bases.

While in New Zealand, Clinton in effect renewed the Australia, New Zealand, United States (ANZUS) Security Treaty as a full tripartite mutual defense pact after a 24-year hiatus in regard to her host country.

On November 13 Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan “thanked the United States…for supporting Tokyo in a series of recent disputes with Russia and China” [3], an allusion to a statement by Clinton on October 27 that the U.S. would honor its military assistance commitment to Tokyo over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands dispute with China and her spokesman Philip Crowley’s affront to Russia five days afterward over the Kuril Islands, which he identified as Japanese territory. [4]

In a tete-a-tete ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Yokohama, the Japanese head of state “sought US President Barack Obama’s assurance on defence in the Asia-Pacific region,” as “Tokyo’s territorial disputes with China and Russia are becoming high priorities for Kan, who told Obama through a translator, ‘The US military presence is only becoming more important.’” [5]

Verbatim, Kan said:

“Japan and the United States, at this meeting of APEC, of pan-Pacific countries, we shall step up our cooperation.  So we agreed on doing that.  And in Japan’s relations with China and Russia, recently we’ve faced some problems, and the United States has supported Japan throughout, so I expressed my appreciation to him for that.

“For the peace and security of the countries in the region, the presence of the United States and the presence of the U.S. military I believe is becoming only increasingly important.” [6]

In return, Obama “voiced support for Japan to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and reaffirmed the U.S.-Japan security alliance.”

He also assured Kan that the U.S.-Japan alliance is “the cornerstone of American strategic engagement in the Asia Pacific” and “the commitment of the United States to the defense of Japan is unshakable.”

According to a U.S. armed forces publication, “While Obama’s support for the continuing security alliance is no surprise, it comes amid tension in Japan over China’s…claims on territory in the East China and South China seas.” [7]

In less than five months the Pentagon has made its military presence felt throughout the Asia-Pacific area:

The U.S. Marine Corps and Navy participated in Exercise Crocodile 10 in East Timor (Timor-Leste) from June 19-26, which included “weapons firing skills, amphibious assault serials, jungle training, flying operations, and a helicopter raid on an abandoned prison” and provided “an opportunity for multi-national forces to work together in the planning and conduct of a complex military exercise.” [8]

In October of 2009 2,500 U.S. and Australian troops engaged in maneuvers in the country, which marked the first U.S.-East Timor joint military exercise.

This July the U.S. led the multinational Angkor Sentinel 2010 command post and field exercises in Cambodia with American forces and troops from the host nation, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mongolia and the Philippines.

For 40 days in late June and throughout July the U.S. led the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2010 war games in the Pacific Ocean off Hawaii with 32 ships, five submarines, more than 170 planes and 20,000 troops from all four branches of the American armed forces and from Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Peru, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand.

From July 25-28 the U.S. conducted joint war games with South Korea,  codenamed Invincible Spirit, in the Sea of Japan/East Sea with the involvement of 20 warships including the nuclear-powered supercarrier USS George Washington, 200 warplanes including F-22 Raptor stealth fighters, and 8,000 troops.

The next month U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Army Pacific presided over the Khaan Quest 2010 military exercise in Mongolia. In the same month American and British troops ran the Steppe Eagle 2010 NATO Partnership for Peace exercise in Kazakhstan.

USS George Washington and the USS John S. McCain destroyer led the first-ever joint U.S.-Vietnam military exercise, consisting of naval maneuvers in the South China Sea, in early August.

Less than a week later the U.S. and South Korea began this year’s Ulchi
Freedom Guardian military exercise in the latter country with 30,000 U.S. and 50,000 South Korean troops participating. [9]

In early September Washington and Seoul held an anti-submarine warfare exercise in the Yellow Sea.

At the end of the same month Indian troops joined U.S. marines and sailors in Exercise Habu Nag 2010, the fifth annual bilateral U.S.-India amphibious training exercise with that codename, in the South China Sea off the coast of Okinawa.

In October at least 3,000 U.S. troops participated in the nine-day Amphibious Landing Exercise 2011 in the Philippines. “The bilateral training exercise, conducted with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, is designed to improve interoperability, increase readiness and continue to build professional relationships between the two countries.” [10]

At the beginning of the same month U.S. warships and troops joined 6,000 Australian soldiers and counterparts from New Zealand for Exercise Hamel in northeast Australia, described in the local press as “massive war games.” [11]

Also in October, South Korea for the first time hosted a multinational military exercise with 14 members of the U.S.-created Proliferation Security Initiative, which included ships and military personnel from the U.S., Canada, France, Australia and Japan.

U.S. marines “conducted urban training exercises” in Singapore on November 6. A Marine Corps lieutenant present “gave a short class on identifying danger areas in a combat environment” and “talked about isolating them by sight, or suppressive fire, and the importance of gaining footholds in enemy territories.” [12]

On November 14 the U.S. and Indian armies completed the 14-day Yudh Abhyas 2010 military exercise in Alaska. Last year’s Yudh Abhyas featured the largest U.S.-India joint military maneuvers ever held.

100,000 American and another 50,000 NATO troops are fighting in the tenth year of their collective war in Afghanistan. The U.S. is escalating deadly drone missile strikes and NATO is increasing helicopter gunship raids in Pakistan.

The Pentagon has indeed marked this as its Asia-Pacific century.

1. U.S. Department of Defense, November 7, 2010

2.  Business Insider, November 6, 2010 click here Obama, Gates And Clinton In Asia: U.S. Expands Military Build-Up In The East,  Stop NATO, November 7, 2010,  click here

3. Russian Information Agency Novosti, November 13, 2010

4. U.S. Supports Japan, Confronts China And Russia Over Island Disputes,  Stop NATO, November 4, 2010, click here

5. Deutsche Presse-Agentur, November 13, 2010

6. The White House, November 13, 2010 Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Kan of Japan in Statements to the Press in Yokohama, Japan click here

7.  Stars and Stripes, November 14, 2010

8. Australian Government, Department of Defence, June 24, 2010

9. U.S.-China Crisis: Beyond Words To Confrontation,  Stop NATO, August 17, 2010,  click here

10.  U.S. Marine Corps, October 22, 2010

11. Australian Broadcasting Company, October 4, 2010

12.  U.S. Marine Corps, November 9, 2010

Tomgram: Juan Cole, The Asian Century?

November 15, 2010 


Tomgram: Juan Cole, The Asian Century?

Posted by Juan Cole at 9:15am, November 11, 2010.

For Barack Obama, midterm 2010 has already been written off as a crushing Republican triumph, but that’s hardly the full story.  After all, approximately 29 million Americans who voted for him in 2008 didn’t bother to stir for him or the Democrats in 2010.  Think of it this way: he’s less a man who lost to the opposition than a man who lost his own dispirited base, much of which is by now thoroughly disappointed, if not mad as hell, and evidently not particularly interested in supporting him anymore.

Like many presidents in defeat, he promptly left town (or “the bubble,” as he’s taken to calling it) for places as far east as possible, in this case all in Asia.  In the wake of an electoral blowout, this previously planned diplomatic journey of goodwill was quickly recast as a search for American jobs.  A little late to launch that search, of course, and India may not be the perfect fit either.   After all, any American who has ever made that desperate call for computer or other technical assistance and found him or herself on the phone with some young person not in Bangor, Maine, but Bangalore, India, probably won’t be overwhelmed by the allure of India’s ability to deliver jobs to the U.S.

Nonetheless, the president gamely arrived in India touting one of two industries which make things that go boom in the dark, where the U.S. still can’t be beat.   No, I’m not talking about Hollywood.  You wouldn’t take Hollywood to Bollywood, after all.  I’m talking about that other American boom-time business under bust-time conditions: the making of high-tech weaponry.  India was once a Russian bailiwick when it came to arms sales, but no longer.  So the president arrived with a Boeing deal to sell C-17 transport planes to the Indian military for up to $5.8 billion (and so, supposedly, create 22,000 new American jobs).  A “preliminary agreement” was inked on this trip, while the two countries agreed on a counterterrorism security initiative, and the U.S. lifted certain export controls on dual-use technology as well.

If weapons sales abroad could pull the U.S. out of its present job doldrums, however, they would have done so long ago.  In the post-Cold War era the U.S. practically cornered the global arms market.  If you want to count on anything, however, count on this: we’d be perfectly happy to arm to the teeth the two great regional rivals in South Asia, India and Pakistan, if they’ll let us.  After all, we arm the world (and worry about it later).  Think of today’s piece by Juan Cole, who runs the invaluable Informed Comment website and whose latest book is Engaging the Muslim World, as a preview presidential tour of the coming ruins of the American empire.  Tom

Obama in Asia
Meeting American Decline Face to Face
By Juan Cole

Blocked from major new domestic initiatives by a Republican victory in the midterm elections, President Barack Obama promptly lit out for Asia, a far more promising arena.  That continent, after all, is rising, and Obama is eager to grasp the golden ring of Asian success.

Beyond being a goodwill ambassador for ten days, Obama is seeking sales of American-made durable and consumer goods, weapons deals, an expansion of trade, green energy cooperation, and the maintenance of a geopolitical balance in the region favorable to the United States.  Just as the decline of the American economy hobbled him at home, however, the weakness of the United States on the world stage in the aftermath of Bush-era excesses has made real breakthroughs abroad unlikely.

Add to this the peculiar obsessions of the Washington power elite, with regard to Iran for instance, and you have an unpalatable mix.  These all-American fixations are viewed as an inconvenience or worse in Asia, where powerful regional hegemons are increasingly determined to chart their own courses, even if in public they continue to humor a somewhat addled and infirm Uncle Sam.

Although the United States is still the world’s largest economy, it is shackled by enormous public and private debt as well as fundamental weaknesses.  Rivaled by an increasingly integrated European Union, it is projected to be overtaken economically by China in just over a decade.  While the president’s first stop, India, now has a nominal gross domestic product of only a little over a trillion dollars a year, it, too, is growing rapidly, even spectacularly, and its GDP may well quadruple by the early 2020s.  The era of American dominance, in other words, is passing, and the time (just after World War II) when the U.S. accounted for half the world economy, a dim memory.

The odd American urge to invest heavily in perpetual war abroad, including “defense-related” spending of around a trillion dollars a year, has been a significant factor further weakening the country on the global stage.  Most of the conventional weapons on which the U.S. continues to splurge could not even be deployed against nuclear powers like Russia, China, and India, emerging as key competitors when it comes to global markets, resources, and regional force projection.  Those same conventional weapons have proved hardly more useful (in the sense of achieving quick and decisive victory, or even victory at all) in the unconventional wars the U.S. has repeatedly plunged into — a sad fact that Bush’s reckless attempt to occupy entire West Asian nations only demonstrated even more clearly to Washington’s bemused rivals.

American weapons stockpiles (and copious plans for ever more high-tech versions of the same into the distant future) are therefore remarkably irrelevant to its situation, and known to be so.  Meanwhile, its economy, burdened by debts incurred through wars and military spending sprees, and hollowed out by Wall Street shell games, is becoming a B-minus one in global terms.

A Superpower With Feet of Clay

Just how weakened the United States has been in Asia is easily demonstrated by the series of rebuffs its overtures have suffered from regional powers.  When, for instance, a tiff broke out this fall between China and Japan over a collision at sea near the disputed Senkaku Islands, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered to mediate.  The offer was rejected out of hand by the Chinese, who appear to have deliberately halted exports of strategic rare-earth metals to Japan and the United States as a hard-nosed bargaining ploy.  In response, the Obama administration quickly turned mealy-mouthed, affirming that while the islands come under American commitments to defend Japan for the time being, it would take no position on the question of who ultimately owned them.

Likewise, Pakistani politicians and pundits were virtually unanimous in demanding that President Obama raise the issue of disputed Kashmir with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his Indian sojourn.  The Indians, however, had already firmly rejected any internationalization of the controversy, which centers on the future of the Muslim-majority state, a majority of whose inhabitants say they want independence.  Although Obama had expressed an interest in helping resolve the Kashmir dispute during his presidential campaign, by last March his administration was already backing away from any mediation role unless both sides asked for Washington’s help.  In other words, Obama and Clinton promptly caved in to India’s insistence that it was the regional power in South Asia and would brook no external interference.

This kind of regional near impotence is only reinforced by America’s perpetual (yet ever faltering) war machine.  Nor, as Obama moves through Asia, can he completely sidestep controversies provoked by the Afghan War, his multiple-personality approach to Pakistan, and his administration’s obsessive attempt to isolate and punish Iran.  As Obama arrives in Seoul, for instance, Iran will be on the agenda.  This fall, South Korea, a close American ally, managed to play a game of one step forward, two steps back with regard to Washington-supported sanctions against that energy-rich country.

The government did close the Seoul branch of Iran’s Bank Milli, sanctioning it and other Iranian firms.  Then, the South Koreans turned around and, according to the Financial Times, appointed two banks to handle payments involving trade between the two countries via the (unsanctioned) Tehran Central Bank.  In doing so, the government insulated other South Korean banks from possible American sanctions, while finding a way for Iran to continue to purchase South Korean autos and other goods.

Before the latest round of U.N. Security Council sanctions South Korea was doing $10 billion a year in trade with Iran, involving some 2,142 Korean companies.  Iran’s half of this trade — it provides nearly 10% of South Korea’s petroleum imports — has been largely unaffected.  South Korea’s exports to Iran, on the other hand, have fallen precipitously under the pressure of the sanctions regime.  Sanctions that hold Iran harmless but punish a key American ally by hurting its trade and creating a balance of payments problem are obviously foolish.

The Iranian press claims that South Korean firms are now planning to invest money in Iranian industrial towns.  Given that Obama has expended political capital persuading South Korea to join a U.S.-organized free trade zone and change its tariffs to avoid harming the American auto industry, it is unlikely that he could now seek to punish South Korea for its quiet defiance on the issue of Iran.

China is the last major country with a robust energy industry still actively investing in Iran, and Washington entertains dark suspicions that some of its firms are even transferring technology that might help the Iranians in their nuclear energy research projects.  This bone of contention is likely to form part of the conversation between Obama and President Hu Jintao before Thursday’s G20 meeting of the world’s wealthiest 20 countries.

Given tensions between Washington and Beijing over the massive balance of trade deficit the U.S. is running with China (which the Obama administration attributes, in part, to an overvalued Chinese currency), not to speak of other contentious issues, Iran may not loom large in their discussions. One reason for this may be that, frustrating as Chinese stonewalling on its currency may seem, they are likely to give even less ground on relations with Iran — especially since they know that Washington can’t do much about it.  Another fraught issue is China’s plan to build a nuclear reactor for Pakistan, something that also alarms Islamabad’s nuclear rival, India.

Rising Asia

If you want to measure the scope of American decline since the height of the Cold War era, remember that back then Iran and Pakistan were American spheres of influence from which other great powers were excluded.  Now, the best the U.S. can manage in Pakistan is the political (and military) equivalent of a condominium or perhaps a time-share — and in Iran, nothing at all.

Despite his feel-good trip to India last weekend, during which he announced some important business deals for U.S. goods, Obama has remarkably little to offer the Indians.  That undoubtedly is why the president unexpectedly announced Washington’s largely symbolic support for a coveted seat as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a ringing confirmation of India’s status as a rising power.

Some Indian politicians and policy-makers, however, are insisting that their country’s increasing demographic, military, and economic hegemony over South Asia be recognized by Washington, and that the U.S. cease its support of, and massive arms sales to, Pakistan.  In addition, New Delhi is eager to expand its geopolitical position in Afghanistan, where it is a major funder of civilian reconstruction projects, and is apprehensive about any plans for a U.S. withdrawal from that country.  An Indian-dominated Afghanistan is, of course, Pakistan’s worst fear.

In addition, India’s need for petroleum is expected to grow by 40% during the next decade and a half.  Energy-hungry, like neighboring Pakistan, it can’t help glancing longingly at Iran’s natural gas and petroleum fields, despite Washington’s threats to slap third-party sanctions on any firm that helps develop them.  American attempts to push India toward dirty energy sources, including nuclear power (the waste product of which is long-lived and problematic) and shale gas, as a way of reducing its interest in Iranian and Persian Gulf oil and gas, are another Washington “solution” for the region likely to be largely ignored, given how close at hand inexpensive Gulf hydrocarbons are.

It is alarming to consider what exactly New Delhi imagines the planet’s former “sole superpower” has to offer at this juncture — mostly U.S. troops fighting a perceived threat in Afghanistan and the removal of Congressional restrictions on sales of advanced weaponry to India.  The U.S. military in Afghanistan is seen as a proxy for Indian interests in putting down the Taliban and preventing the reestablishment of Pakistani hegemony over Kabul.  For purely self-interested reasons Prime Minister Singh has long taken the same position as the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives, urging Obama to postpone any plans to begin a drawdown in Afghanistan in the summer of 2011.

The most significant of the Indian purchases trumpeted by the president last weekend were military in character.  Obama proclaimed that the $10 billion in deals he was inking would create 54,000 new American jobs.  Right now, it’s hard to argue with job creation or multi-billion-dollar sales of U.S.-made goods abroad.  As former secretary of labor Robert Reich has pointed out, however, jobs in the defense industry are expensive to create, while offering a form of artificial corporate welfare that distorts the American economy and diverts resources from far more crucial priorities.

To think of this another way, President Obama is in danger of losing control of his South Asian foreign policy agenda to India, its Republican supporters in the House, and the military-industrial complex.

As the most dynamic region in the world, Asia is the place where rapid change can create new dynamics.  American trade with the European Union has grown over the past decade (as has the EU itself), but is unlikely to be capable of doubling in just a few years.  After all, the populations of some European countries, like powerhouse Germany, will probably shrink in coming decades.

India, by contrast, is projected to overtake China in population around 2030 and hit the billion-and-a-half-inhabitants mark by mid-century (up from 1.15 billion today).  Its economy, like China’s, has been growing 8% to 9% a year, creating powerful new demand in the world market.  President Obama is hoping to see U.S. exports to India double by 2015.  Likewise, with its economy similarly booming, China is making its own ever more obvious bid to stride like a global colossus through the twenty-first century.

The Hessians of a Future Asia?

Unsurprisingly, beneath the pomp and splendor of Obama’s journey through Asia has lurked a far tawdrier vision — of a much weakened president presiding over a much weakened superpower, both looking somewhat desperately for succor abroad. If the United States is to remain a global power, it is important that Washington offer something to the world besides arms and soldiers.

Obama has been on the money when he’s promoted green-energy technology as a key field where the United States could make its mark (and possibly its fortune) globally.  Unfortunately, as elsewhere, here too the United States is falling behind, and a Republican House as well as a bevy of new Republican governors and state legislatures are highly unlikely to effectively promote the greening of American technology.

In the end, Obama’s trip has proven a less than effective symbolic transition from George W. Bush’s muscular unilateralism to a new American-led multilateralism in Asia.  Rather, at each stop, Obama has bumped up against the limits of American economic and diplomatic clout in the new Asian world order.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney thought in terms of expanding American conventional military weapons stockpiles and bases, occupying countries when necessary, and so ensuring that the U.S. would dominate key planetary resources for decades to come.  Their worldview, however, was mired in mid-twentieth-century power politics.

If they thought they were placing a marker down on another American century, they were actually gambling away the very houses we live in and reducing us to a debtor nation struggling to retain its once commanding superiority in the world economy.  In the meantime, the multi-millionaires and billionaires created by neoliberal policies and tax cuts in the West will be as happy to invest in (and perhaps live in) Asia as in the United States.

In the capitals of a rising Asia, Washington’s incessant campaign to strengthen sanctions against Iran, and in some quarters its eagerness for war with that country, is viewed as another piece of lunatic adventurism.  The leaders of India, China, and South Korea, among other countries, are determined to do their best to sidestep this American obsession and integrate Iran into their energy and trading futures.

In some ways, the darkest vision of an American future arrived in 1991 thanks to President George H. W. Bush.  At that time, he launched a war in the Persian Gulf to protect local oil producers from an aggressive Iraq.  That war was largely paid for by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, rendering the U.S. military for the first time a sort of global mercenary force.  Just as the poor in any society often join the military as a way of moving up in the world, so in the century of Asia, the U.S. could find itself in danger of being reduced to the role of impoverished foot soldier fighting for others’ interests, or of being the glorified ironsmiths making arsenals of weaponry for the great powers of the future.

Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History and the director of the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan.  His latest book, Engaging the Muslim World, is just out in a revised paperback edition from Palgrave Macmillan. He runs the Informed Comment website.

Copyright 2010 Juan Cole

Australia, U.S. agree to major escalation of military co-operation

November 7, 2010 

President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and Secretary of Defense Gates are touring the Asia Pacific region outlining an expansion of the U.S. military presence in the region.    Below are two articles describing the closer collaboration between the U.S. and Australia with joint exercises and missile defense.  Demilitarization activists in Australia have criticized these develoments.


Posted on Common Dreams:

Published on Friday, November 5, 2010 by The Sydney Morning Herald

US to Step Up Military Presence Across Asia, into Indian Ocean

US Sets Eyes on Southern Defense Outposts

by Hamish McDonald

THE United States military will store equipment and supplies in Australia as part of a new regional posture to respond faster to natural disasters and other contingencies, and conduct more intensive training with Australian forces.

The two militaries will also build a new space-monitoring facility in Western Australia, as previously reported in the Herald, to extend tracking of space activity, including missiles from rogue states like North Korea and orbiting debris.

Washington and Canberra will also step up co-operation in cyber security and warfare to counter what Defence analysts see as an ”emerging area of strategic risk” as foreign states and individual hackers try to break into government data banks and control infrastructure systems.

The initiatives are expected to emerge from Monday’s annual bilateral ministerial talks on defence and foreign affairs, involving the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and the Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, and their Australian counterparts, Kevin Rudd and Stephen Smith.

In the closed-door talks in Government House, Melbourne, Mrs Clinton and Mr Gates will outline a stepped-up American military presence across Asia into the Indian Ocean. This will involve more frequent patrols and port-calls by US Navy ships and other units, including to Australian bases.

The shift reflects an ongoing ”global posture review” designed to counter a recent trend of deploying forces directly from bases in the United States or its external territories, and maintain a more ”visible and effective” presence in key regions.

There will be more American cruises through south-east Asia and more exercises with Australian and other regional forces, including those of Indonesia and Singapore, as well as joint aid efforts like a recent school construction effort in East Timor by US Navy engineers working from the amphibious landing ship HMAS Tobruk.

South-east Asia is seen as the nexus between the Pacific and the Indian oceans. Washington is showing greater interest in the Indian Ocean region and India itself (the US President, Barack Obama, is about to visit), as well as greater awareness of the region’s strategic connection with the Pacific.

The ”pre-positioning” of US military stores in places like Darwin and Townsville would allow faster aid in disasters and help with logistical problems in joint training. But it is likely to include large amounts of combat equipment for the typical US Marine taskforce involved in the bigger amphibious exercises.

The new space facility likely to be added to the Northwest Cape joint communications base is designed to enhance ”space situational awareness” in the southern hemisphere, where coverage is relatively thinner than over the north.

It will track missiles, warheads, satellites and debris, and would be a passive monitoring facility rather than an advance into space warfare, which is restricted by international treaty.

But more than helping space stations and satellites dodge collisions, it will have a defence role, as threats like the North Korean ballistic missile program have made US and Australian defence agencies more concerned about the ”southern trajectory”.

Copyright © 2010 Fairfax Media



Australia, U.S. agree to major escalation of military co-operation

06 November 2010 | 05:07 | FOCUS News Agency

Canberra. Australia has agreed to a major escalation of military co-operation with the U.S., Xinhua informed.

According to The Weekend Australian newspaper, the move will include more visits by American ships, aircraft and troops and their forces exercising.

Access to Australian Defense Force facilities will allow the U. S. to step up its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, and increased numbers of U.S. personnel in Australian facilities were expected within months, the paper wrote.

Three big announcements on military and security co-operation will be made after Monday’s Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) defense and foreign policy talks in Melbourne of Australia.

The AUSMIN will be attended by delegations headed by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Australia’s Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Defense Minister Stephen Smith.

The Australian newspaper on Saturday said the Australian development is part of a new U.S. strategy to step up its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, after reviews of strategic policy concluded that the U.S. government’s attempts to project power from North America were not working.

© 2010 All rights reserved. Reproducing this website’s contents requires obligatory reference to FOCUS Information Agency!

Obama, Gates And Clinton In Asia: U.S. Expands Military Build-Up In The East

November 7, 2010 

Obama, Gates And Clinton In Asia: U.S. Expands Military Build-Up In The East

by Rick Rozoff

Global Research, November 7, 2010

President Barack Obama arrived in Mumbai, India on November 6 and announced $10 billion in business deals with his host country which he claimed will contribute to 50,000 new American jobs. By some accounts half the transactions will be for India’s purchase of U.S. military equipment and half the new jobs will be created in the defense sector.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is completing a nearly two-week tour of the Asia-Pacific region which will culminate in meeting up with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen in Australia on November 8 to among other matters secure the use of the country’s military bases.

Gates will then visit Malaysia, “amid concern in the region over China’s growing economic and naval power” [1], to solidify military ties with the Southeast Asian nation as Obama moves to Indonesia, South Korea and Japan after his first visit to India on what will be his longest trip abroad since assuming the presidency.

Obama styles himself “America’s first Pacific president,” having been born in Hawaii and spending part of his childhood in Indonesia, and his administration has targeted Asia for the expansion of U.S. military influence and presence.

Several months ago a Chinese report warned that his visit to India was designed in large part to “secure $5 billion worth of arms sales,” a deal that “would make the US replace Russia as India’s biggest arms supplier” and “help India curb China’s rise.” [2]

What he has accomplished is “a $5 billion sale for 10 of Boeing’s C-17 cargo planes” which represents “the sixth biggest arms deal in U.S. history.”

“This and the pending $60 billion deal with Saudi Arabia will certainly help to jump-start the economy, as they [arms sales] have for the past fifty years.” [3]

Job creation in the U.S. is an abysmal failure except in the military sector.

“Boeing said the C-17 deal with India will support 650 suppliers in 44 U.S. states and support the company’s own C-17 production facility in Long Beach, California, for an entire year.” [4]

Other deals included an $822 million contract for General Electric to provide 107 F414 engines for the Tejas lightweight multirole jet fighter being developed by India.

Rahul Bedi, Indian-based correspondent for Jane’s Defence Weekly, recently revealed that since U.S. sanctions enforced after India’s 1998 nuclear tests were lifted in 2001 “India has concluded and signed arms contract worth $12 billion. This includes maritime reconnaissance aircraft (Boeing P-81), missiles, artillery guns, radars and transport aircraft.

“India is also buying heavy lift transport for the air force (C-17s). An artillery radar contract was the first of its kind worth $142 million. Over the next years, India is going to go for repeat orders of C-17s [Globemaster IIIs], C-130J Super Hercules [military transport aircraft], etc.” and “these contracts are worth another 7 to 8 billion dollars.” [5]

The projected purchase of 126 multirole combat aircraft will account for another $10 billion and other contracts for assorted military helicopters are also being pursued by Washington. What is in question is $15 billion in weapons deals.

With already concluded and potential contracts, “we are talking about very, very big business. We are talking about the shifting of Indian military hardware, completely.

“Shifting from Russian components to American ones is a big shift. In the mid-90s, the Pentagon had assessed that by 2015 [it] would like India to source it’s 25 per cent of hardware. They seem to be well on their way in meeting their target.

“The profile of Indian military hardware is becoming US-oriented. This will bring definitive change in Indian military doctrine because it’s dependent on [imported] equipment.”

The U.S. is also pressuring the Indian government to sign several military-related agreements, including a Logistics Support Agreement which could prove “dangerous because the use of US ports by Indians will be zero while the US can or may use Indian bases frequently because of their presence in the region. So, technically speaking, if the US should have problem[s] with Iran or Pakistan they, under the agreement, may use our bases. Indian soil can become a lunching pad for refuelling or servicing.” [6]

Addressing the U.S.-India Business Council in Mumbai on November 6, Obama said: “There is no reason why India cannot be our top trading partner (from 12th position now)….I’m absolutely sure that the relationship between India and the US is going to be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.” [7] That is, one of the decisive political-military alliances of the century.

In the words of Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, “The simple truth is that India’s rise, and its strength and progress on the global stage, is deeply in the strategic interest of the United States.” [8]

Obama will leave India on November 8, when Clinton, Gates and Mullen gather in Australia, and head to Indonesia where he will exploit his childhood history and then to the G-20 meeting in South Korea and the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in Japan.

Indian troops are currently participating with U.S. airborne forces in this year’s annual Yudh Abhyas joint military exercises “involving airborne specialist operations in sub-zero temperatures in Alaska” of a sort that could be put to use along India’s Himalayan border with China in the event of an armed conflict like that which occurred in 1962.

“The exercise will test the mettle of the Indian Army men in performing operations in extreme cold conditions in Alaska where the temperature hovers around minus 20 degree Celsius.

“The exercise is designed to promote cooperation between the two militaries to promote interoperability through the combined military decision-making process, through battle tracking and manoeuvring forces, and exchange of tactics, techniques and procedures.” [9] Last year’s Yudh Abhyas, held in India, was the largest U.S.-Indian military exercise to date. [10]

From September 29-October 4 personnel from the Indian army, air force and navy trained with the U.S.’s 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit at the latter’s base in Okinawa in the East China Sea during the Habu Nag 2010 “bilateral amphibious training exercise between India and the United States, designed to increase interoperability during amphibious operations,” the first time “the Indian military had the chance to work alongside Marines in this situation.” [11]

“Okinawa is located close to China and has a significant US presence where several military bases are concentrated.” [12]

Clinton began her six-nation tour of the Asia-Pacific region on October 27 by visiting a military base in Hawaii, meeting with the head of U.S. Pacific Command and assuring the foreign minister of Japan that the U.S. is prepared to honor its military commitments under terms of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty in the event of further clashes between Japan and China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. [13]

The next day U.S. and Japanese warships participated in an advanced ballistic missile interception test off the coast of Hawaii and on November 2 the U.S. launched the two-week Orient Shield 11 (XI) military exercise with 400 U.S. National Guard and 200 Japanese troops in the latter’s nation.

“Since World War II concluded, the United States has worked to build a better relationship with Japan. In 1960, the U.S. and Japan signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, a binding agreement for both countries to support each other from enemy attack.” As such, “United States Army Japan facilitates a two-week Orient Shield exercise in Japan each fall….”

In the words of the commander of the Japanese forces involved this year, “Our main goal is to enhance the interoperability between the U.S. and Japan.” [14]

Since Hillary Clinton spoke this July of U.S. intentions to intervene in territorial disputes in the South China Sea between China and its neighbors, the Pentagon has conducted three joint military exercises with South Korea, including in the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan/East Sea, and one with Vietnam in the South China Sea.

Last month the U.S. led a 14-nation Proliferation Security Initiative [15] naval exercise off the southern port city of Busan, “marking the first time for South Korea to host such a drill.” [16] In addition to the U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Lassen and two South Korean destroyers, a Japanese ship and personnel from Australia, Canada and France participated.

In late September China’s Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo warned that “A series of military drills initiated by the US and China’s neighboring countries showed that the US wants to increase its military presence in Asia.”

“The purpose of these military drills launched by the US is to target multiple countries including China, Russia and North Korea and to build up strategic ties with its allied countries like Japan and South Korea.” [17]

Secretary of State Clinton arrived in New Zealand on November 4. Like South Korea, Australia, Malaysia and now Japan (which has announced plans to deploy Self-Defense Forces medical personnel), New Zealand has troops serving in Afghanistan.

“New Zealand has participated in the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan, with 140 personnel carrying out reconstruction work in Bamiyan and 70 special forces troops in the country believed to be operating in Kabul.”

Her visit revived and expanded military ties between the U.S and New Zealand that had been dormant since 1986, “mark[ing] the end of a row over nuclear weapons dating back almost 25 years,” according to Prime Minister John Key.

“U.S. and New Zealand troops could train together” again, the press reported, and two days before Clinton’s arrival the New Zealand government published a 100-page defense white paper, the first in 13 years, detailing “closer military relations with the United States, Australia, Britain and Canada, as well as enhanced front-line capabilities.

“On the ground the army will get more front-line soldiers and Special Air Service elite troops, while on the seas the Anzac frigates will be upgraded….Hillary Clinton arrived in New Zealand for a three-day visit, prompting one newspaper to suggest it was a perfect gift for her.” [18]

Though not of the same scope, the New Zealand white paper follows one by Australia last year that calls for a post-World War Two record $72 billion arms build-up. [19]

Clinton’s next stop was Australia, where Pentagon chief Gates had also arrived to “reinforce the U.S. commitment to the region with a longstanding U.S. ally and an increasingly close partner,” according to Defense Department Press Secretary Geoff Morrell.

Clinton, Gates and U.S. military chief Admiral Mullen will meet with Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Defense Minister John Faulkner on November 8 for the 25th anniversary Australia-United States Ministerial (AUSMIN) meeting.

The Pentagon spokesman added that “This year’s talks will cover a broad range of foreign policy, defense and strategic issues, including ongoing military operations in Afghanistan,” noting that “Australia is the largest non-NATO contributor to the International Security Assistance Force” in Afghanistan. [20]

Morrell emphasized the meeting would strengthen the U.S.’s alliance with Australia and would contribute to increased collaboration with regional partners to ensure “maritime security” in Asia. As a news source put it, “US officials often employ the phrase ‘maritime security’ to refer to concerns about China’s assertive stance over territorial rights in the Pacific, particularly in the South China Sea.” [21]

A local news report recently divulged that “Australia has agreed to a major escalation of military co-operation with the US,” including “more visits by American ships, aircraft and troops and their forces exercising here regularly….”

“Access to Australian Defence Force facilities will allow the US to step up its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region…as concern grows about China’s military expansion.”

Three “big announcements” on military cooperation will be made after the Australia-United States Ministerial consultations and “Increased numbers of US personnel in Australian facilities are expected within months, and the tempo of military exercises will be stepped up as that happens.” [22]

The military installations that the Pentagon will gain access to are expected to include army and air force bases at Townsville, the new Coonawarra naval base in Darwin, the Stirling naval base on Garden Island and the Bradshaw Field Training Area.

“The Australian development is part of a new US strategy to step up its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region after reviews of strategic policy concluded that the Bush government’s attempts to project power from North America were not working.” [23]

When Clinton arrived in Melbourne on November 6 she “signalled increased military cooperation with Australia.”

“Easier use of Australian bases, more joint training programmes and more visits by ships, planes and troops are proposed. There could also be stockpiling of US military equipment and supplies at local bases, and a joint space tracking facility that would monitor missiles, satellites and space junk.”

In her own words: “I think it’s going to be an issue of discussion at AUSMIN (Australia-US ministerial level talks Monday) about the cooperation on a range of matters, including space, cyber-security and so much else.”

New Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard confirmed that her administration would “welcome the United States making greater use of our ports and our training facilities, our test-firing ranges.” [24]

The focus of U.S. military strategy has shifted from Europe, subjugated through NATO expansion, and Africa, subordinated under U.S. Africa Command, to Asia. An Asia-Pacific analogue of NATO and AFRICOM is being expanded by the day.


1) Radio Netherlands, November 4, 2010

2) Global Times, July 13, 2010

3) Anika Anand, The Real Reason For Obama’s Trip To India: The Sixth Biggest

Arms Deal In U.S. History

Business Insider, November 6, 2010

4) CNN, November 6, 2010

5) Sheela Bhatt, As Obama arrives, US bids for heavy arms business

Rediff News, November 5, 2010

6) Ibid

7) Press Trust of India, November 6, 2010

8) CNN, November 6, 2010

9) Press Trust of India, November 4, 2010

10) India: U.S. Completes Global Military Structure

Stop NATO, September 10, 2010

11) United States Marine Corps, October 5, 2010

12) Indian Express, September 22, 2010

13) U.S. Supports Japan, Confronts China And Russia Over Island Disputes, Stop NATO, November 4, 2010,

14) U.S. Army Japan, November 2, 2010

15) Proliferation Security Initiative And U.S. 1,000-Ship Navy: Control Of World’s Oceans, Prelude To War, Stop NATO, January 29, 2009,

16) Korea Herald, October 13, 2010

17) Global Times, September 26, 2010

18) United Press International, November 4, 2010

19) Australian Military Buildup And The Rise Of Asian NATO, Stop NATO, May 6, 2009,

20) U.S. Department of Defense, November 4, 2010

21) Radio Netherlands, November 4, 2010

22) Australian Associated Press, November 6, 2010

23) Ibid

U.S. Marshals Military Might To Challenge Asian Century, Stop NATO, August 21, 2010,

24) Deutsche Presse-Agentur, November 6, 2010



Blog site:

© Copyright Rick Rozoff, Stop NATO, 2010

The url address of this article is:

Mixed Messages: U.S. Strategy in the Asia Pacific

October 30, 2010 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a strategy speech while on a stop over in Honolulu.   One military website reported:

The U.S. goals in the Pacific are to sustain and strengthen America’s leadership in the Asia Pacific Region; to improve security; to heighten prosperity and promote our values, said the Secretary.

The United States has been practicing forward deployed diplomacy, which means they have adopted a proactive footing.

“We’ve sent the full range of our diplomatic assets including our highest ranking officials, our development experts, our teams from a wide range of pressing issues into every corner and every capital of the Asia Pacific Region,” said Clinton.

“We know that much of the history of the 21st century will be written in Asia,” said Clinton. “This region will see the most transformative economic growth on the planet,” she added.

Clinton also remarked on how important America has been as Asia has moved forward in the future.

“The progress that we see today in Asia has not only been the hard work of leaders and citizens of across the region, but the American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that protect borders and patrol the region’s waters; the American diplomats that have settled conflicts and brought nations together in common causes; the American business leaders and entrepreneurs who invested in new markets and formed trans-pacific partnerships; the American aid workers that have helped countries rebuild in the wake of disasters and the American educators and students that have shared ideas and experiences with their counterparts across the ocean,” said the Secretary.

Clinton underscores the critical importance of the region as the geopolitical center of gravity.    But she also seems to overcompensate for America’s dwindling power with strident pronouncements of U.S. dominance and indispensability.     Although the Obama administration has stepped up diplomatic efforts in the region, the U.S. increasingly resorts to its vast network of military bases as its primary source of power.  In fact, even diplomacy is becoming more militarized, with the Pacific Command assuming many roles typically handled by the State Department and the State Department taking on more militarized language. e.g. “forward deployed diplomacy”.

Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. is sending mixed messages to China:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton encouraged greater U.S.-China cooperation in Asia, even as she stressed that the U.S. will increase its effort to remain a military and economic power in the region.

Similar to the speech she gave when she visited Hawai’i in January 2010, Clinton reaffirmed Washington’s intention to remain top dog in the Asia Pacific region:

“Now, there are some who say that this long legacy of American leadership in the Asia-Pacific region is coming to a close. That we are not here to stay. I say, look at our record. It tells a different story,” Mrs. Clinton said Thursday in Hawaii.

The U.S. rivalry with China is bad news for the small islands of the Pacific, including Hawai’i, Guam, Okinawa.  As the Telegraph reports:

Local residents’ concerns, however, have been sidelined by the US-China strategic competition. China has significantly expanded its fleet during the past decade, seeking to deter the US from intervening militarily in any future conflict over Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own, and to project power across disputed territories in the gas and oil-rich South China Sea.

Beijing’s naval build-up is also intended secure the sea lanes from the Middle East, from where China will import an estimated 70-80 per cent of its oil needs by 2035 supplies it fears US could choke in the event of a conflict.

Despite claims that China does not have imperial desires to establish foreign military bases, it has undertaken a military base race of its own:

China has therefore invested in what are called its “string of pearls” a network of bases strung along the Indian Ocean rim, like Hambantota in Sri Lanka and Gwadar in Pakistan and in developing a navy which can operate far from home.

Think Tank Report on US Japan Relations Has No Good Recommendations

October 27, 2010 

The think tank Center for a New American Security has released a new report on the U.S. Japan Mutual Security Treaty and makes some recommendations.   All the options being proposed involved some form of increased militarization of the Asia-Pacific region.  Here’s an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal blog:

Indeed, a new report due out Wednesday from the Washington, D.C.-based Center for a New American Security (CNAS) sees the bilateral relationship at a — surprise, surprise — “turning point…amid a strategic environment of unprecedented complexity.” Yet the report also points out the half-century old U.S. Japan Mutual Security Treaty has had a solid track record of helping to keep the peace in the Asia-Pacific region. Among the more provocative suggestions for policymakers: consider pulling back some forward stationed U.S. military forces in Japan and moving them as far away as Guam or Hawaii.

The report, an advance copy of which was obtained by The Wall Street Journal, provides an overview of challenges facing the alliance timed to coincide with the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting of regional leaders in Yokohama next month. It specifies several areas in need of “revitalization,” including greater interoperability of the two countries’ intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) programs. It also bluntly calls on Japan to create a National Security Council and to boost its arsenal by adding drones (“long-haul, unmanned aerial vehicles”), diesel attack submarines and naval mines. And the report suggests four core options for the U.S. military base presence in Japan:

1.) Retain and Harden: Maintain current base structure and bolster their potency by deploying more missile defenses and “pouring additional concrete on shelters and burying facilities.”

2.) Fortify Guam: Shift more American military personnel from Japan to the island of Guam while building up its air and naval facilities.

3.) Disperse: Spread the U.S. military footprint across more of Oceania by redeploying forces from Japan and improve access to military installations in Southeast Asia.

4.) Pullback to Hawaii: Move some U.S. forces in Japan to Hawaii and upgrade their capability to redeploy quickly during a regional crisis.

Can Japan Say No to Washington?

March 4, 2010,_can_japan_say_no_to_washington/

Tomgram: John Feffer, Can Japan Say No to Washington?

Posted by John Feffer at 11:15am, March 4, 2010.

When it comes to cracks in America’s imperial edifice — as measured by the ability of other countries to say “no” to Washington, or just look the other way when American officials insist on something — Europe has been garnering all the headlines lately, and they’ve been wildly American-centric. “Gates: Nato, in crisis, must change its ways,” “Pull Your Weight, Europe,” “Gates: Europe’s demilitarization has gone too far,” “Dutch Retreat,” and so on. All this over one country — Holland — which will evidently pull out of Afghanistan thanks to intensifying public pressure about the war there, and other NATO countries whose officials are shuffling their feet and hemming and hawing about sending significant reinforcements Afghanistan-wards. One could, of course, imagine quite a different set of headlines (“Europeans react to overbearing, overmuscled Americans,” “Europeans turn backs on endless war”), but not in the mainstream news. You can certainly find some striking commentary on the subject by figures like Andrew Bacevich and Juan Cole, but it goes unheeded.

The truth is that Europe still seems a long way from being ready to offer any set of firm noes to Washington on much of anything, while in Asia, noes from key American clients of the past half-century have been even less in evidence. But sometimes from the smallest crack in a façade come the largest of changes. In this case, the most modest potential “no” from a new Japanese government in Tokyo, concerning U.S. basing posture in that country, seems to have caused near panic in Washington. In neither Europe nor Asia have we felt any political earthquakes — yet. But just below the surface, the global political tectonic plates are rubbing together, and who knows when, as power on this planet slowly shifts, one of them will slip and suddenly, for better or worse, the whole landscape of power will look different.

John Feffer, the co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus and a TomDispatch regular, already has written for this site on whether Afghanistan might prove NATO’s graveyard. Now, he turns east to explore whether, in a dispute over one insignificant base on the Japanese island of Okinawa, we might be feeling early rumblings on the Asian fault-line of American global power. Tom

Pacific Pushback

Has the U.S. Empire of Bases Reached Its High-Water Mark?

By John Feffer

For a country with a pacifist constitution, Japan is bristling with weaponry. Indeed, that Asian land has long functioned as a huge aircraft carrier and naval base for U.S. military power. We couldn’t have fought the Korean and Vietnam Wars without the nearly 90 military bases scattered around the islands of our major Pacific ally. Even today, Japan remains the anchor of what’s left of America’s Cold War containment policy when it comes to China and North Korea. From the Yokota and Kadena air bases, the United States can dispatch troops and bombers across Asia, while the Yokosuka base near Tokyo is the largest American naval installation outside the United States.

You’d think that, with so many Japanese bases, the United States wouldn’t make a big fuss about closing one of them. Think again. The current battle over the Marine Corps air base at Futenma on Okinawa — an island prefecture almost 1,000 miles south of Tokyo that hosts about three dozen U.S. bases and 75% of American forces in Japan — is just revving up. In fact, Washington seems ready to stake its reputation and its relationship with a new Japanese government on the fate of that base alone, which reveals much about U.S. anxieties in the age of Obama.

What makes this so strange, on the surface, is that Futenma is an obsolete base. Under an agreement the Bush administration reached with the previous Japanese government, the U.S. was already planning to move most of the Marines now at Futenma to the island of Guam. Nonetheless, the Obama administration is insisting, over the protests of Okinawans and the objections of Tokyo, on completing that agreement by building a new partial replacement base in a less heavily populated part of Okinawa.

The current row between Tokyo and Washington is no mere “Pacific squall,” as Newsweek dismissively described it. After six decades of saying yes to everything the United States has demanded, Japan finally seems on the verge of saying no to something that matters greatly to Washington, and the relationship that Dwight D. Eisenhower once called an “indestructible alliance” is displaying ever more hairline fractures. Worse yet, from the Pentagon’s perspective, Japan’s resistance might prove infectious — one major reason why the United States is putting its alliance on the line over the closing of a single antiquated military base and the building of another of dubious strategic value.

During the Cold War, the Pentagon worried that countries would fall like dominoes before a relentless Communist advance. Today, the Pentagon worries about a different kind of domino effect. In Europe, NATO countries are refusing to throw their full support behind the U.S. war in Afghanistan. In Africa, no country has stepped forward to host the headquarters of the Pentagon’s new Africa Command. In Latin America, little Ecuador has kicked the U.S. out of its air base in Manta.

All of these are undoubtedly symptoms of the decline in respect for American power that the U.S. military is experiencing globally. But the current pushback in Japan is the surest sign yet that the American empire of overseas military bases has reached its high-water mark and will soon recede.

Toady No More?

Until recently, Japan was virtually a one-party state, and that suited Washington just fine. The long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had the coziest of bipartisan relations with that city’s policymakers and its “chrysanthemum club” of Japan-friendly pundits. A recent revelation that, in 1969, Japan buckled to President Richard Nixon’s demand that it secretly host U.S. ships carrying nuclear weapons — despite Tokyo’s supposedly firm anti-nuclear principles — has pulled back the curtain on only the tip of the toadyism.

During and after the Cold War, Japanese governments bent over backwards to give Washington whatever it wanted. When government restrictions on military exports got in the way of the alliance, Tokyo simply made an exception for the United States. When cooperation on missile defense contradicted Japan’s ban on militarizing space, Tokyo again waved a magic wand and made the restriction disappear.

Although Japan’s constitution renounces the “threat or the use of force as a means of settling international disputes,” Washington pushed Tokyo to offset the costs of the U.S. military adventure in the first Gulf War against Saddam Hussein in 1990-1991, and Tokyo did so. Then, from November 2001 until just recently, Washington persuaded the Japanese to provide refueling in the Indian Ocean for vessels and aircraft involved in the war in Afghanistan. In 2007, the Pentagon even tried to arm-twist Tokyo into raising its defense spending to pay for more of the costs of the alliance.

Of course, the LDP complied with such demands because they intersected so nicely with its own plans to bend that country’s peace constitution and beef up its military. Over the last two decades, in fact, Japan has acquired remarkably sophisticated hardware, including fighter jets, in-air refueling capability, and assault ships that can function like aircraft carriers. It also amended the 1954 Self-Defense Forces Law, which defines what the Japanese military can and cannot do, more than 50 times to give its forces the capacity to act with striking offensive strength. Despite its “peace constitution,” Japan now has one of the top militaries in the world.

Enter the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). In August 2009, that upstart political party dethroned the LDP, after more than a half-century in power, and swept into office with a broad mandate to shake things up. Given the country’s nose-diving economy, the party’s focus has been on domestic issues and cost-cutting. Not surprisingly, however, the quest to cut pork from the Japanese budget has led the party to scrutinize the alliance with the U.S. Unlike most other countries that host U.S. military bases, Japan shoulders most of the cost of maintaining them: more than $4 billion per year in direct or indirect support.

Under the circumstances, the new government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama proposed something modest indeed — putting the U.S.-Japan alliance on, in the phrase of the moment, a “more equal” footing. It inaugurated this new approach in a largely symbolic way by ending Japan’s resupply mission in the Indian Ocean (though Tokyo typically sweetened the pill by offering a five-year package of $5 billion in development assistance to the Afghan government).

More substantively, the Hatoyama government also signaled that it wanted to reduce its base-support payments. Japan’s proposed belt-tightening comes at an inopportune moment for the Obama administration, as it tries to pay for two wars, its “overseas contingency operations,” and a worldwide network of more than 700 military bases. The burdens of U.S. overseas operations are increasing, and fewer countries are proving willing to share the costs.

Of Dugongs and Democracy

The immediate source of tension in the U.S.-Japanese relationship has been Tokyo’s desire to renegotiate that 2006 agreement to close Futenma, transfer those 8,000 Marines to Guam, and build a new base in Nago, a less densely populated area of the island. It’s a deal that threatens to make an already strapped government pay big. Back in 2006, Tokyo promised to shell out more than $6 billion just to help relocate the Marines to Guam.

The political cost to the new government of going along with the LDP’s folly may be even higher. After all, the DPJ received a healthy chunk of voter support from Okinawans, dissatisfied with the 2006 agreement and eager to see the American occupation of their island end. Over the last several decades, with U.S. bases built cheek-by-jowl in the most heavily populated parts of the island, Okinawans have endured air, water, and noise pollution, accidents like a 2004 U.S. helicopter crash at Okinawa International University, and crimes that range from trivial speeding violations all the way up to the rape of a 12-year-old girl by three Marines in 1995. According to a June 2009 opinion poll, 68% of Okinawans opposed relocating Futenma within the prefecture, while only 18% favored the plan. Meanwhile, the Social Democratic Party, a junior member of the ruling coalition, has threatened to pull out if Hatoyama backs away from his campaign pledge not to build a new base in Okinawa.

Then there’s the dugong, a sea mammal similar to the manatee that looks like a cross between a walrus and a dolphin and was the likely inspiration for the mermaid myth. Only 50 specimens of this endangered species are still living in the marine waters threatened by the proposed new base near less populated Nago. In a landmark case, Japanese lawyers and American environmentalists filed suit in U.S. federal court to block the base’s construction and save the dugong. Realistically speaking, even if the Pentagon were willing to appeal the case all the way up to the Supreme Court, lawyers and environmentalists could wrap the U.S. military in so much legal and bureaucratic red tape for so long that the new base might never leave the drawing board.

For environmental, political, and economic reasons, ditching the 2006 agreement is a no-brainer for Tokyo. Given Washington’s insistence on retaining a base of little strategic importance, however, the challenge for the DPJ has been to find a site other than Nago. The Japanese government floated the idea of merging the Futenma facility with existing facilities at Kadena, another U.S. base on the island. But that plan — as well as possible relocation to other parts of Japan — has met with stiff local resistance. A proposal to further expand facilities in Guam was nixed by the governor there.

The solution to all this is obvious: close down Futenma without opening another base. But so far, the United States is refusing to make it easy for the Japanese. In fact, Washington is doing all it can to box the new government in Tokyo into a corner.

Ratcheting Up the Pressure

The U.S. military presence in Okinawa is a residue of the Cold War and a U.S. commitment to containing the only military power on the horizon that could threaten American military supremacy. Back in the 1990s, the Clinton administration’s solution to a rising China was to “integrate, but hedge.” The hedge — against the possibility of China developing a serious mean streak — centered around a strengthened U.S.-Japan alliance and a credible Japanese military deterrent.

What the Clinton administration and its successors didn’t anticipate was how effectively and peacefully China would disarm this hedging strategy with careful statesmanship and a vigorous trade policy. A number of Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines and Indonesia, succumbed early to China’s version of checkbook diplomacy. Then, in the last decade, South Korea, like the Japanese today, started to talk about establishing “more equal” relations with the United States in an effort to avoid being drawn into any future military scrape between Washington and Beijing.

Now, with its arch-conservatives gone from government, Japan is visibly warming to China’s charms. In 2007, China had already surpassed the United States as the country’s leading trade partner. On becoming prime minister, Hatoyama sensibly proposed the future establishment of an East Asian community patterned on the European Union. As he saw it, that would leverage Japan’s position between a rising China and a United States in decline. In December, while Washington and Tokyo were haggling bitterly over the Okinawa base issue, DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa sent a signal to Washington as well as Beijing by shepherding a 143-member delegation of his party’s legislators on a four-day trip to China.

Not surprisingly, China’s bedazzlement policy has set off warning bells in Washington, where the People’s Republic is still a focus of primary concern for a cadre of strategic planners inside the Pentagon. The Futenma base — and its potential replacement — would be well situated, should Washington ever decide to send rapid response units to the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea, or the Korean peninsula. Strategic planners in Washington like to speak of the “tyranny of distance,” of the difficulty of getting “boots on the ground” from Guam or Hawaii in case of an East Asian emergency.

Yet the actual strategic value of Futenma is, at best, questionable. The South Koreans are more than capable of dealing with any contingency on the peninsula. And the United States frankly has plenty of firepower by air (Kadena) and sea (Yokosuka) within hailing distance of China. A couple thousand Marines won’t make much of a difference (though the leathernecks strenuously disagree). However, in a political environment in which the Pentagon is finding itself making tough choices between funding counterinsurgency wars and old Cold War weapons systems, the “China threat” lobby doesn’t want to give an inch. Failure to relocate the Futenma base within Okinawa might be the first step down a slippery slope that could potentially put at risk billions of dollars in Cold War weapons still in the production line. It’s hard to justify buying all the fancy toys without a place to play with them.

And that’s one reason the Obama administration has gone to the mat to pressure Tokyo to adhere to the 2006 agreement. It even dispatched Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to the Japanese capital last October in advance of President Obama’s own Asian tour. Like an impatient father admonishing an obstreperous teenager, Gates lectured the Japanese “to move on” and abide by the agreement — to the irritation of both the new government and the public.

The punditocracy has predictably closed ranks behind a bipartisan Washington consensus that the new Japanese government should become as accustomed to its junior status as its predecessor and stop making a fuss. The Obama administration is frustrated with “Hatoyama’s amateurish handling of the issue,” writes Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt. “What has resulted from Mr. Hatoyama’s failure to enunciate a clear strategy or action plan is the biggest political vacuum in over 50 years,” adds Victor Cha, former director of Asian affairs at the National Security Council. Neither analyst acknowledges that Tokyo’s only “failure” or “amateurish” move was to stand up to Washington. “The dispute could undermine security in East Asia on the 50th anniversary of an alliance that has served the region well,” intoned The Economist more bluntly. “Tough as it is for Japan’s new government, it needs to do most, though not all, of the caving in.”

The Hatoyama government is by no means radical, nor is it anti-American. It isn’t preparing to demand that all, or even many, U.S. bases close. It isn’t even preparing to close any of the other three dozen (or so) bases on Okinawa. Its modest pushback is confined to Futenma, where it finds itself between the rock of Japanese public opinion and the hard place of Pentagon pressure.

Those who prefer to achieve Washington’s objectives with Japan in a more roundabout fashion counsel patience. “If America undercuts the new Japanese government and creates resentment among the Japanese public, then a victory on Futenma could prove Pyrrhic,” writes Joseph Nye, the architect of U.S. Asia policy during the Clinton years. Japan hands are urging the United States to wait until the summer, when the DPJ has a shot at picking up enough additional seats in the next parliamentary elections to jettison its coalition partners, if it deems such a move necessary.

Even if the Social Democratic Party is no longer in the government constantly raising the Okinawa base issue, the DPJ still must deal with democracy on the ground. The Okinawans are dead set against a new base. The residents of Nago, where that base would be built, just elected a mayor who campaigned on a no-base platform. It won’t look good for the party that has finally brought real democracy to Tokyo to squelch it in Okinawa.

Reverse Island Hop

Wherever the U.S. military puts down its foot overseas, movements have sprung up to protest the military, social, and environmental consequences of its military bases. This anti-base movement has notched some successes, such as the shut-down of a U.S. navy facility in Vieques, Puerto Rico, in 2003. In the Pacific, too, the movement has made its mark. On the heels of the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, democracy activists in the Philippines successfully closed down the ash-covered Clark Air Force Base and Subic Bay Naval Station in 1991-1992. Later, South Korean activists managed to win closure of the huge Yongsan facility in downtown Seoul.

Of course, these were only partial victories. Washington subsequently negotiated a Visiting Forces Agreement with the Philippines, whereby the U.S. military has redeployed troops and equipment to the island, and replaced Korea’s Yongsan base with a new one in nearby Pyeongtaek. But these not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) victories were significant enough to help edge the Pentagon toward the adoption of a military doctrine that emphasizes mobility over position. The U.S. military now relies on “strategic flexibility” and “rapid response” both to counter unexpected threats and to deal with allied fickleness.

The Hatoyama government may indeed learn to say no to Washington over the Okinawa bases. Evidently considering this a likelihood, former deputy secretary of state and former U.S. ambassador to Japan Richard Armitage has said that the United States “had better have a plan B.” But the victory for the anti-base movement will still be only partial. U.S. forces will remain in Japan, and especially Okinawa, and Tokyo will undoubtedly continue to pay for their maintenance.

Buoyed by even this partial victory, however, NIMBY movements are likely to grow in Japan and across the region, focusing on other Okinawa bases, bases on the Japanese mainland, and elsewhere in the Pacific, including Guam. Indeed, protests are already building in Guam against the projected expansion of Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam to accommodate those Marines from Okinawa. And this strikes terror in the hearts of Pentagon planners.

In World War II, the United States employed an island-hopping strategy to move ever closer to the Japanese mainland. Okinawa was the last island and last major battle of that campaign, and more people died during the fighting there than in the subsequent atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined: 12,000 U.S. troops, more than 100,000 Japanese soldiers, and perhaps 100,000 Okinawan civilians. This historical experience has stiffened the pacifist resolve of Okinawans.

The current battle over Okinawa again pits the United States against Japan, again with the Okinawans as victims. But there is a good chance that the Okinawans, like the Na’vi in that great NIMBY film Avatar, will win this time.

A victory in closing Futenma and preventing the construction of a new base might be the first step in a potential reverse island hop. NIMBY movements may someday finally push the U.S. military out of Japan and off Okinawa. It’s not likely to be a smooth process, nor is it likely to happen any time soon. But the kanji is on the wall. Even if the Yankees don’t know what the Japanese characters mean, they can at least tell in which direction the exit arrow is pointing.

John Feffer is the co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies and writes its regular World Beat column. His past essays, including those for, can be read at his website. For more information on the growing movement against the U.S. base in Okinawa, join the Facebook group I Oppose the Expansion of US Bases in Okinawa

Copyright 2010 John Feffer

Quadrennial Defense Review will lay out U.S. strategy for next four years

January 27, 2010

Posted on: Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pentagon’s new strategy beefs up Army, Marines

Draft of 4-year plan suggests major impact on Isle bases


Gannett Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Boots on the ground will trump jets in the air or boats in the water in the Pentagon’s forward-looking, four-year plan due out Monday alongside the 2011 defense budget.

The Quadrennial Defense Review will recommend beefing up the Army and Marine Corps, now stretched thin in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a draft version of the document.

Many of the cuts in expensive weapons have already started.

For Hawai’i and Guam — home to some of the most expensive conventional weapons the nation deploys, as well as to legions of foot soldiers — the report will have manifold consequences, although it’s not yet clear what they are.

The various military branches are expected to outline how they’ll be affected by the QDR and the proposed 2011 defense budget Monday.

The defense budget has been growing by an annual average of 4 percent, which would mean a $563 billion package for 2011, depending on whether it includes special funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

If included, the war funding could boost the overall request to $700 billion or more.

The Obama administration has said it wants to include war funding in the annual budget, rather than adding it in as needed, the way the Bush administration did.

“The defense budget is now more people-oriented,” said Loren Thompson, a top defense analyst with the Virginia-based Lexington Institute. “You’re going to see more emphasis on fighting unconventional warfare and less on weapons like aircraft carriers and bombers — more on people and less on equipment.”

thematic report

The QDR is a broad, thematic report. It does not lay out the future of the military in any detail. Those decisions unfold annually in the defense budget, and they change with each president.

Already, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has attempted to cut high-priced weapons systems, such as the F-22 fighter and Future Combat System for the Army, in favor of spending on ground-based troops and their support needs.

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said the upcoming QDR will be the first to be driven by current wartime requirements, largely to balance conventional and nonconventional capabilities, and to embrace a “whole of government” approach to national security.

“This is a landmark QDR,” Lynn told aerospace executives at the recent Aerospace and Defense Conference. “And it comes at a time when the nature of war is changing in ways that we need to adapt to. The QDR seeks to identify these changes and the challenges they present to our security. For the first time in decades, the political and economic stars are aligned for a fundamental overhaul of the way the Pentagon does business.”

The 2006 QDR recommended moving naval strength from the Atlantic to the Pacific, in response to the rising prominence of China.

That was a boon for Hawai’i and Guam.

China remains a major concern, but it’s still not clear how the Obama administration will respond to the world’s most populous nation within the larger context of worldwide threats, especially from the radical Islamic world, where soldiers and Marines have been doing most of the work.

Resources are limited.

“Given the state of the federal budget overall, it is unlikely that this rate of (military) growth will continue,” said a report from the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

That creates potential conflict between “the people who serve and the weapon systems they depend on,” the report said.

AP: Clinton was met by protesters

January 13, 2010 

The AP reported:

Speaking on a hillside terrace at the East-West Center on the campus of the University of Hawaii, Clinton was met upon arrival by a few dozen protesters lining the street and shouting “End the wars!” and hoisting signs demanding that the U.S. withdraw its military forces from Okinawa. None attended the speech.


Posted on Tue, Jan. 12, 2010

Clinton accepts Japan’s delay on US base decision


The Associated Press

HONOLULU – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday the Obama administration feels assured of Japan’s commitment to a continuing security alliance with the United States, even as Tokyo weighs abandoning a 2006 deal on a U.S. Marine air base.

“The Japanese government has explained the process they are pursuing to reach a resolution” on relocating the Futenma air station, “and we respect that,” she told a news conference after meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada at a Honolulu hotel.

Clinton apparently received no explicit promise from Okada that Japan would not force Futenma off its territory entirely. The U.S. military views Futenma as critical to its strategy for defending not only Japan but also reinforcing allied forces in the event of war on the Korean peninsula.

Okada told reporters that he reiterated his government’s pledge to reach a decision on relocation of Futenma by May. He said Tokyo would determine the future of the air station in a way that would have “minimal impact on the U.S.-Japan alliance.”

In a nod to Japanese sensitivities, Clinton said it was important for the U.S. to maintain its role in contributing to stability in the Asia-Pacific region while keeping in mind the need to reduce the impact of jet noise and other inconveniences to local communities near U.S. bases.

Clinton also delivered a speech designed to clarify the Obama administration’s views on modernizing the groupings of Asian and Pacific nations in ways that would enhance their cooperation on a wide range of issues, including regional security, trade and the environment.

Speaking on a hillside terrace at the East-West Center on the campus of the University of Hawaii, Clinton was met upon arrival by a few dozen protesters lining the street and shouting “End the wars!” and hoisting signs demanding that the U.S. withdraw its military forces from Okinawa. None attended the speech.

Clinton stressed that the first U.S. priority in the Asia-Pacific is to maintain the country-to-country alliances it already has, while exploring ways in which the United States can play a role in any new or reconfigured associations.

“The ultimate purpose of our cooperation should be to dispel suspicions that still exist as artifacts of the region’s turbulent past,” she said.

No country, including the U.S., should dominate in the region, she said. But the role of the United States is irreplaceable, she added.

“We can provide resources and facilitate cooperation in ways that other regional actors cannot replicate, or in some cases are not trusted to do.”

She described the region as a source of potential instability.

“Asia is home not only to rising powers, but also to isolated regimes; not only to long-standing challenges, but also unprecedented threats,” she said.

For decades the main U.S. ties to the Asia-Pacific region have been through security and trade agreements with individual countries, such as the 50-year-old security treaty with Japan that allows the basing of U.S. forces on Japanese territory.

The case of Futenma air station, on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, has become particularly sensitive. That it must be moved is not in dispute , the two countries signed a deal in 2006 to relocate it on the island. The problem is where to put it. And the U.S. position is that it cannot be shut down until a replacement is established elsewhere on Okinawa , an idea most Okinawans oppose.

A new left-leaning Japanese government that took office in September is reassessing the U.S.-Japan alliance.

It also is investigating agreements long hidden in government files that allowed nuclear-armed U.S. warships to enter Japanese ports, violating a hallowed anti-nuclear principle of postwar Japan. The findings are due out this month.

At her news conference with Okada, Clinton played down the friction over Futenma, stressing the many other areas of long-standing cooperation between the two countries. And she made clear that satisfying U.S. needs for the Marine base is equally in Japan’s own interest.

“We look to our Japanese allies and friends to follow through on their commitments, including on Futenma,” she said. “I know Japan understands and agrees that our security alliance is fundamental to the future of Japan and the region.”

The Hawaiian setting for Tuesday’s meeting, in the 50th year of the U.S.-Japan defense alliance, inevitably stirred memories of darker times. After her session with Okada, Clinton visited the World War II memorial to the sunken USS Arizona, which still lies in Pearl Harbor with its dead. She chatted briefly with two survivors and laid a wreath before a wall containing names of those who died on the ship.

Nearly 2,400 Americans were killed and almost 1,180 injured when Japanese fighters bombed and sank 12 naval vessels and heavily damaged nine others on Dec. 7, 1941. The Arizona, which sank in less than nine minutes after an armor-piercing bomb breached its deck and exploded in the ship’s ammunition magazine, lost 1,177 sailors and Marines. About 340 of its crew members survived.

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