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U.S. And The New Asia

U.S. And The New AsiaThe dynamics of East Asia are changing – and according to Fletcher dean Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. must adjust to a new role in the region. Medford/Somerville, Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [07.10.03] While the United States has focused its attention on the Middle East and the war on terrorism, the political and military stability of East Asia has been steadily shifting. Former adversaries have become new allies with the U.S., while new volatile hotspots are emerging. According to Stephen Bosworth - dean of Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - the threat of a nuclear North Korea has put the region on edge, and the shifting of power among states is forcing the U.S. to re-examine its diplomatic role in the important region.

"America's role in the region and its military posture there will look very different at the end of this decade than they did at the start of it," Bosworth wrote in the most recent edition of Foreign Affairs.

In the Op-Ed, Bosworth and former U.S. diplomat to Thailand Morton Abramowitz wrote that changing power roles of nations within the area have resulted in a new international dynamic.

"Two factors have affected Washington's role most directly," Bosworth wrote. "The first is the rise of China, in both economic and geopolitical terms. And the second it the dramatic diminishment of Japan's economic vitality, which has led its regional influence to slip."

According to the Tufts expert, the shifting of world forces is also due to the rapid economic growth of South Korea and recent marginalization of former powerhouse Taiwan.

But the Fletcher School dean emphasized that politics within the region are not the only element in the equation - the Bush administration's internal policies are also playing an important role.

"Fighting terror has become as or more important to Washington than were its traditional concerns for peace and stability," Bosworth wrote, explaining that the war on terror has led to a new American concern over the growth of Islamic extremism among Muslim populations of Southeast Asia.

Fear of terrorism has drastically changed the priorities of the Bush administration's Asian foreign policy in other ways as well - most noticeably in the United States' relationship with China.

"Beijing has gone from Washington's strategic competitor to being its security collaborator and a major trade investment partner," wrote the two experts. "The change has been abrupt, dating to the aftermath of September 11, 2001, when the Bush administration virtually reversed its China policy. This turnaround was reflected in the administration's National Security Strategy, released a year later, which identified terrorism - and not a rising China - as the United States' primary strategic threat."

This, according to the experts, will pull the U.S. towards China, and away from a neutral or stabilizing role in the region.

"The United States, consciously or not, has already begun stepping back from its role as the unique balancing power in East Asia and is moving toward a closer relationship with China instead," wrote Bosworth.

But despite the drastic reshaping of power, the Tufts expert wrote that one thing has stayed the same - the ill-regarded government of North Korea.

"The only thing that has not changed on the peninsula is the totalitarian, militarized nature of Kim Jong Il's regime," wrote Bosworth. "For the time being, the most pressing question - and the source of greatest uncertainty - remains North Korea and its nuclear weapons program."

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