The context of the Asia-Pacific rivalry between the United States and China has evolved over the last 5 or 6 decades. Issues associated with territorial dispute resolution, response to a bellicose nuclear-armed North Korea, and partner concerns over China’s increasingly assertive foreign policy now challenge the relationship, once characterized by strong elements of cooperation and economic growth. This report examines U.S.-China gray zone competition in the Asia-Pacific, and identifies land forces capabilities and initiatives necessary to advance U.S. national interests in the face of that competition. The report offers nine specific recommendations and a two-tier implementation plan to integrate those recommendations into defense management processes.
According to many analysts of China’s military, when an officer of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) suggests new forms of operations, expanded domains of warfare, or new weapons systems, American security planners can dismiss these projections as merely “aspirational” thinking. This assessment of the PLA Academy of Military Science publication Long Distance Operations and other military publications of this genre propose that suggestions for forms of future warfare capture currents of thinking among mid-grade officers and also reflect how the senior political and military leaders in China want the PLA to evolve. Among the trends identified in this Letort Paper is the requirement for a capacity to more effectively attack a distant adversary, such as the United States, and to hold that adversary’s population at risk. This analysis also shows that a number of military analysts in China perceive that the populace is at risk from attacks by stronger, distant states. In the past 5 years, the PLA has exercised to develop force projection and expeditionary capabilities. As described in brief in this analysis, in the past 6 months, the PLA has changed its own force structure and posture in ways that will facilitate expeditionary operations.
The U.S.-Indian security relationship has markedly improved since the Cold War with increased cooperation in a range of areas. The two countries have established stronger military, economic, and political ties based on mutual interests in combating terrorism, promoting democracy, preventing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation, and addressing China’s rise. Their bilateral defense engagements now include a range of dialogues, exercises, educational exchanges, and joint training opportunities. The partnership benefits both countries, enabling them to realize their core security goals. Yet, U.S. and Indian national security leaders must take new steps to ensure that the relationship realizes its potential.
The Paracel Islands and South China Sea disputes require better understanding by U.S. policymakers in order to address the region’s challenges. To attain that needed understanding, legal aspects of customary and modern laws are explored in this monograph to analyze the differences between competing maritime and territorial claims, and why and how China and Vietnam stake rival claims or maritime legal rights. Throughout, U.S. policies are examined through U.S. conflicted interests in the region. Recommendations for how the United States should engage these issues, a more appropriate task than trying to solve the disputes outright, are then offered.
Much has been written about the rise of China and the tensions that this has put on the international system. The potential for conflict between the United States and China can be compared to the Peloponnesian War, as told by the ancient historian Thucydides, and the inevitability of that war because of Sparta’s fear of a rising Athens. There is no doubt that the rise of China has generated, if not fear, at least significant consternation on the part of the United States and our Pacific allies.
After contextualizing North Korea’s capacity for belligerent rhetoric directed toward the United States and its northeast Asian allies, the author examines the contention that rhetoric from Pyongyang represents a conflict escalation risk or even a casus belli. The results of statistical tests indicate a negative correlation between Pyongyang’s rhetoric and international diplomatic initiatives, but no correlation between North Korea’s verbal hostility and its provocations.
Nothing is more important to American security than nuclear weapons. Despite all the fretting over terrorism, hybrid threats, and conventional aggression, only nuclear weapons can threaten the existence of the United States and destroy the global economy. This is certainly not news to American policymakers and military strategists: they have recognized the centrality of nuclear weapons at least since the Soviets detonated their first atomic bomb in 1949. But so far, U.S. strategy has focused almost exclusively on deterring attacks from a hostile nuclear state, preventing unfriendly nations from acquiring nuclear weapons and, after the break up of the Soviet Union, keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists.
The thesis of this paper is that the current U.S. policy toward North Korea has created an imbalance between the objectives and concepts at the strategic level. As a result, the U.S. has not been able to achieve its stated policy objective of denuclearized North Korea. In an effort to secure effectively U.S. national interests, the Obama administration forthwith should reevaluate the policy of “strategic patience” and consider approaches that could ameliorate the imbalance. The strategic environment has changed significantly since Obama took office in 2009. Significant changes in the strategic environment require significant modifications to the current policy. President Nixon in 1972 proactively took steps to seek rapprochement with the communist China—then, and still, a nuclear weapons state—against the Cold War policy of containment. Recently, President Obama made a historic visit to Cuba, once a nuclear weapons proxy state, and made a historic deal with Iran, a member of the axis of evil and once an aspiring nuclear weapons state. The strategic environment is now conducive to a new engagement approach that is proactive, principled, pragmatic, and persistent with a hint of realism.
U.S. landpower is an essential, but often overlooked, element of national power in semi-enclosed maritime environments like the South China Sea. This monograph gives U.S. policymakers a better understanding of the role of the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, and Special Operations Forces (SOF) in the region through potential combat operations employing wide area defense and maneuver; deterrence through forward presence and peacetime operations; and security engagement with landpower-dominant allies, partners, and competitors in the region. Landpower’s capabilities are also essential for direct support of the air and sea services and other government organization’s success when operating in this theater in direct support of U.S. national interests.