ARIA Part II: Title I

We will be continuing with our look at the Asian Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA) and focus, this time, on Title I: United States Policy and Diplomatic Strategy in the Indo-Pacific Region.

Beginning at Section 101, part (1). Here, ARIA states that the policy of the United States will be secure the national security interests of itself and its allies and partners. Naturally this garners the question of what happens when the interests of one are not in the interests of the other. For example: South Korea has recently made a move to strength economic cooperation with Russia in what is called the New Northern Policy. This move could not only more greatly tie the two together, but strength the economic power of Russia which, despite any claim of how close President Trump is or is not to Russia, is still viewed in the terms of an adversary by much, if not most of the American government and populous. While there does not appear to be an American backlash in response to this move, that might change in the future.

Part (2) states that it will be policy to promote “American prosperity and economic interests by advancing economic growth and development of a rules-based Indo-Pacific economic community”. Beyond the question of what exactly “American prosperity” is, this piece raises the question of American investment in the region. Will the US government encourage investment in the Indo-Pacific? In Section 102, Parts (B) and (C), it is stated that the US intends to improve relations with allies by: improving information sharing, and increasing defense investment and trade, respectively, so this seems well within the possibility. However, other questions do arise. Does that include North Korea and would that be apart of a deal with the state in exchange for eliminating its nuclear arsenal? Will investment be turned away from China, especially in fields such as AI and cybernetics? If this is the intention of the US it may earn them some good will, but will also raise suspicion.

The bill restates the United States’ commitment to human rights, which, as stated before, will likely cause issues with numerous countries, including: China, North Korea, and the Philippines.

Returning to Section 102, the next major points of interest are points (D) and (E) which state: “(It is the diplomatic strategy of the United States—) to
ensure interoperability; and…to strengthen shared capabilities”. Now, this is another situation where, by itself, it is in no way surprising or outside the norms of strategic policy. Indeed, the statement might be heralded as a move in the right direction of international cooperation and regional stability. However the problem is that the unspoken reality is more complicated. In order to “ensure interoperability” and “strengthen shared capabilities” allies have to be on the same page, something which has already been stated, not to be the case. One key example of this is Trump’s cancellation of the US-South Korean War games, something done in the name of diplomacy with the North Koreans, but which has the Japanese government in a bit of unease.

Continuing on to Part (2), (B), the bill states that the American strategy will be to “strengthen relationships with partners who—… agree with fair and reciprocal trade”. One might view this as an effort to appease or some agreement with, President Trump given his heavy focus on matters of trade and the balance of trade deficits. This seems possible not only because of the common belief that ARIA is meant as a way of ensuring the Trump administration solidifies a strategy in the Indo-Pacific region (for more on that please refer back to Part I of this series, which you can find here), but also due to other findings which will be discussed momentarily. If so, it is important to reiterate the potential of future interbranch conflict in the US government.

Part (3) with it’s statement of American support for “functional problem-solving regional architecture”, comes off as a little hollow given Trump recently failed to attend numerous Indo-Pacific summits, though some may have been glad that Vice President Pence came in his stead.

With regards to part (4) sections (A) and (B) on freedom of navigation and peaceful resolution to maritime disputes, I will simply reiterate the earlier statement that this will likely lead to confrontation with China and a rise in tensions, even if the goal itself, is reasonable.

The bill goes on the reiterate a commitment to the complete denuclearization. If the US is to continue, effectively on this path, a few things should change. One: Japan needs to more fully included in the discussions. As previously stated, Japan is feeling slighted and lost on the front of North Korea. No doubt this anxiety has only increased with Trump’s rhetoric on trade. Japan, as a vital American ally and a nation sitting precariously close to North Korea, they must be brought in on some significant capacity. Though it is important to remember that the North Koreans have signaled this goes against their wishes and made, therefore, earn their ire, so precaution must be taken. In the event that the American delegation in charge of negotiations with North Korea fear that including Japan will derail the talks, it is highly recommended that Japan is made aware that the US takes their position seriously and an explanation is given. Failure to do so will only alienate Japan further.

Moving on to Part (8), ARIA states that it will be the policy of the US to “to pursue multilateral and bilateral trade agreements in a free, fair, and reciprocal manner and…committed to free markets”. This suggests a reversal in the Trump policy on trade, which could again indicate an attempt by Congress to flex its power and limit the executive. Whether they will use this bill in order to exercise that power against the current or future administrations, and in what manner, remains to be seen.

The bill also states that it will be policy to work with countries in the region to “pursue high-quality and transparent infrastructure projects”, which is surely a direct challenge to China’s highly ambitious, Belt and Road Initiatives. Indeed, Vice President Pence, in the previously mentioned summit, took a direct shot at the initiatives and their effects, which was in no way appreciated by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Finally, Title I finishes by stating that it will be American policy “to sustain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific region and strengthen security relationships with allies and partners throughout the region”. This, again, will cause a confrontation with China, but more importantly, demands a correction of the current situation with allies and partners in the region and thawing the icy streak that has been in place for the last two years or so. Overall, Title I reiterates much of what it stated earlier and findings, and the greatest concerns appear to be centered around future conflict with China and current issues with American relations in the region, neither of which are surprising.


A Closer Look at South Korea’s Plan for Cooperation With Russia,
Valentin Voloshchak, The Diplomat, January 9, 2019

Why China’s AI push is worrying, The Economist, July 27th, 2017

Senator: Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war has killed 20,000, Ted Regencia, Al Jazeera, February 21, 2018

Pentagon suspends ‘war games’ with South Korea after Trump’s meeting with Kim, Dan Lamothe, The Washington Post, June 18, 2018

Mike Pence challenges China at Asia-Pacific economic summit,
Thomas Maresca, USA Today, November 17, 2018


US-China Relations: Suggestions for the Future

American-Chinese relations are in a difficult position. Tensions over trade, territory, and North Korea, among others, has turned their relationship into an all-out rivalry. But there are ways to improve the current predicament so that both sides may feel more secure and benefit from their relationship.

On the American side, there are a variety of methods that they can enact to ease tensions and improve cooperation. First and foremost, the trade war pushed forward by President Trump must be ended. He is not wrong that the Chinese government has manipulated the scales in order to benefit their own economy, but a trade war only serves to increase tensions and will do significant harm to numerous wings of the American economy. Instead, the President should promote economic interdependence, tying China as heavily to the American economy as heavily to the United States as possible. This would be a major piece in a much broader program of creating more open forums for discussion and cooperation. As the world’s two leading nations, there must be numerous, and easy to use lines of dialogue in order solve issues and bolster their interests.

Naturally though, the US is skeptical of China’s rising power and is rightfully concerned about Chinese investment and acquisitions in such areas as artificial intelligence and other dual-purpose technologies. As such, it was wise to strengthen their Committee on Foreign Investment and more steps should be taken to ensure sensitive technology and information is protected. On that note, the US should focus more heavily on their cyber defense capabilities. The US has an extensive arsenal of cyber tools, but they are focused on offensive capabilities, which opened not only itself, but the world to cyber attack when those tools are lost, and the US can be sure that China is bolstering is capacity to wage war in cyberspace.  

Finally, the US must reinvigorate old alliances. The President may see legit issues with current alliances, but in these times of nervousness and tension he would do well to set aside these points of contention, at least for now. The US must join with friendly nations like Japan, South Korea, and Australia, to properly handle the problems associated with China’s rising power. It must also join with newer partners, such as Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia, who have shown increasing concern about their larger neighbor.

However, the US is not the only one which must change if a resolution is to be found. China has issues, as well, that it must address if it wishes to ease current tensions.

Firstly, China must cease its territorial ambitions in the South China Sea. Its profound claims of ownership, coupled with its island building and sequent construction of military installations, is an affront to international stability and disturbs numerous countries, such as the previously mentioned Vietnam.

Another action China must take, should it wish to ease tensions abroad, is open up their markets. China is notorious for limiting foreign access to its markets at the same time it is actively pumping money into other markets including real estate and artificial intelligence. This has led to frustration by China’s two largest trading partners: the European Union, and the United States. Added onto to this is the issue of China’s State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), which are insulated from outside forces. These too, must be made more open, at least in some, non-strategic sectors, not only to elevate pressure from foreign entities looking to enter the Chinese market, but also to end the drain on China’s economy itself.

On the issue of economics, China must also gain a respect for intellectual property rights. The scope of China’s intellectual theft is extensive with a 2017 updated report from the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property stating the cost to the US economy totaling somewhere between $225 and $600 billion annually. This can only do harm to any relationship between the US and China and will remain an open wound for future grievances until properly addressed.

There are also actions that both may improve their relationship.  As stated earlier, creating or improving existing conferences and institutions that allow for a forum of discussion and a mode to address issues is vital. Should tensions between the two strain their capacity for an open dialogue, a chain of communication, such as through Japan or South Korea, could also be utilized. This would have the added benefit of bringing such countries into the fold and decreasing the risk that they feel sidelined.

These are but a few methods that may be used to improve the current condition of US-China relations and ease concerns amongst the many parties, and there are certainly others. For both countries they may find the suggestions provided difficult to implement, or even against their perceived interests. In some ways they may be right. However, it’s to no one’s interests that the US and China, the two largest economies, vaste populations, and both controlling nuclear arsenals, should come into conflict.


Congress Strengthens Reviews of Chinese and Other Foreign Investments, New York Times, August 1, 2018

Security Breach and Spilled Secrets Have Shaken the N.S.A. to Its Core, New York Times, November 12, 2017
Chinese investors are inflating housing markets in the US, Canada, and Australia, Business Insider, June 10, 2018

The European Commission, China, Trade,

Fixing China Inc, The Economist, August 30th, 2014

The Unreal Scope of China’s Intellectual Property Theft, The American Conservative, July 23, 2018

Update to the IP Commission Report, The Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, published by The National Bureau of Asian Research, February 2017, initial Report May 2013

The World Bank, World Integrated Trade Solution, China,

US-Japan Relations in the 21st century

    The US-Japanese alliance is one of the longest lasting, and most tightly intertwined of the modern era, encompassing economic, political, social, and military links. Each nation is vital to the other’s strategic interests. For the United States, Japan is the most valuable ally in East Asia. For Japan, the United States offers an umbrella of protection against both North Korea and the rising power of China. It is important, though, to critically examine any relationship, so one may better understand it and contemplate the relationship’s future. Such contemplation is especially essential now, given current world instability. To be unaware of a relationship’s strength and vulnerabilities during such a time could prove disastrous. To understand the importance of the US-Japanese alliance, this work will be looking at the following: first, the waning power of the United States; second, how and why Japan is failing to live up to its potential and remedies for its shortcomings; third the current, unstable state of global affairs and how this could allow new powers to rise; fourth the importance of the US-Japanese alliance and possible methods of strengthening it.

    The United States remains, arguably, the strongest state in the world. It maintains huge economic and political power, exerts tremendous social and cultural influence, and spends more on its military than the next few nations combined. This preeminence though, is far from unchallenged, as the European Union has overtaken the United States in terms of economic clout, and both the EU and China are looking to expand their military capabilities. India’s power is waxing as well; the nation may soon surpass China in population, and is expanding its military budget, albeit not at a rate that matches their GDP. All of this indicates that the days of American supremacy may be ending. Now the United States faces the rise of a multi-polar world in which new allies and new rivals are sure to rise up in the near future. The United States must reexamine its position and relationships and devise a way to secure its global position. Japan will be a vital part of that strategy.

    The days of Japan as a future superpower are long past. But, with the nation’s “Ghost Decade” now past, Japan is recovering its influence. There are a few caveats to this statement though. For one, in spite of the efforts of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, inflation remains low, which has kept wages down. Exacerbating all policy concerns is Japan’s aging population. With fewer births and more of its population entering into advanced years, Japan will have an increasingly difficult time remaining an economic powerhouse. Should Japan lose its economic edge, the core of its soft power, the US-Japan alliance will weaken, as Japan’s ability to make economic deals that tie states to its interests and therein have the capacity to punish outlandish nations will diminish. This puts both Japanese interests, and American interests by proxy, at greater risk. Despite these concerns, the economy has grown for years and unemployment has reached less than three percent. If Prime Minister Abe is able to properly implement his “Abenomics” to its fullest potential, continued growth is likely.

On top of their economic concerns, Japan faces two other, interconnected issues: a pacifist constitution and a bellicose neighborhood. For decades Article 9, the section of the Japanese constitution that forbids Japan from maintaining a military and declaring war, has restrained Japan. The problem is even more troubling given recent events with North Korea, including the missiles that flew over Japan on August of 2017. On top of these concerns is the rising power of China, which has shown an increasing willingness to use aggression to forward its goals. All of this culminates in a Japan that, while still strong, needs reform, economically, politically, and militarily. Absent reforms any contributions it makes to an alliance with the United States will be minimal and thus, strain the relationship with the Western ally.

There is hope though. China’s economy seems to finally be slowing down and its birth rate is decreasing, despite relaxed restrictions on having children. Additionally, with Xi Jinping’s ending of term limits, the increasing restrictions on minority groups such as the Uighurs of Xinjiang province, the growing anger of migrant workers, and other similar problems, unrest is likely to grow. Predicting the nature and consequences of such dissent is impossible, given the size of the problems and the strength of the Chinese government, but it would wise for both the United States and Japan to keep these factors in mind when contemplating China and deciding on what actions to take with regards to the nation.

    The US-Japanese alliance is one of the great influences in East Asia, protecting the interests of both nations and ensuring stability in the region. With a combined GDP of  over $25 trillion, a combined defense budget of over $650 billion, and a combined population of nearly 500,000,000, the two nations act as a balance against the increasing power of China, and other ascendant states. The US-Japanese alliance remains as vital as ever and should be strengthened, with the two sides working to improve communication and understanding to better manage current and future crises. To do this Trump must stop alienating allies in Asia and elsewhere, and create a more united front. Failure to do this will result in any action he wishes to take, both globally and within the region, having less force behind it as allies show their unwillingness to back his measures. Trump should also take steps to strengthen the dollar. An active attempt to increase the value of the dollar could win him support in Japan by counteracting the nation’s inflation problem, in turn boosting the Japanese economy. The Japanese, in turn, should seek ways to increase their military strength, by abolishing Article 9 or circumventing it. Given the creation and maintenance of JSDF, which remains widely popular in Japan, this is not out of the question. These steps would bolster the alliance and the individual nations, while providing needed clarity of the roles of each state.

    There are reasons to be concerned about the US-Japanese alliance. Its role in balancing power in the region is critical, as are its mutual economic and cultural ties. If either state wishes to properly manage North Korea or China, they must work together. With serious, thoughtful effort, the two nations can repair the alliance. If they do so, both the United States and Japan will be better prepared to traverse the world to come.


Military Expenditure:

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China South China Sea:

EU Army:

India Army:

Japan, the superpower:

Japan and missiles:

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President Moon, Nobel Prize:

China, muslims:

China, migrant workers:

Combined GDP: (contains link to IMF report)