1 June 2012


The US needs to adjust its approach to defence in the Asia-Pacific region if it is to address the growing non-traditional security threats in the region, according to a new report from Chatham House.

'Prepared for Future Threats? US Defence Partnerships in the Asia-Pacific Region', says that while the US is capable of addressing traditional challenges to peace and security, it r emains unprepared for emerging threats such as climate change, cyber and space security, pandemics, and water and food security.

Moreover, given new budget constraints, US military thinking needs to shift from a preoccupation with conventional military responses (and a fixation on troop numbers) to new and relatively uncharted areas of cooperative threat response.

In light of recent rhetoric from President Barack Obama suggesting a new pivot to Asia, this report suggests alternative ways of thinking about how the US and its partners can meet tomorrow’s threats in the Asia-Pacific region.

The role of the US military in providing security in the region needs to be more focused on providing reassurance to its allies, dissuading them from taking provocative positions, and deterring China or North Korea from doing the same. Further, the United States needs to change the debate, particularly with Japan and South Korea, to one that focuses on defence capabilities rather than simply troop numbers.

Most nations in the Asia-Pacific region perceive their principal concern as balancing their relations with China and the United States. For allies of the US, tensions exist between the desire to preserve the US security umbrella and the wish to maintain positive relations with China, the lar gest economy in the region. Managing the Sino-American relationship therefore presents both the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity for US diplomacy in Asia.

The current global economic situation has created a defence dilemma that is hard to resolve: how to bridge the gap between the imperative for lower spending and the ongoing need to adapt to tomorrow’s security challenges. A central part of any response will be ensuring that the US has an alliance structure that reflects the principal threats to its security over the next two decades.

Notes to Editors

Read 'Prepared for Future Threats? US Defence Partnerships in the Asia-Pacific'