Claudia Fonseca Sosa
BARACK Obama's choice of the Asian
Pacific for his first official visit after winning
the November elections was no accident. He was very
clear in stating that he considers the area to be of
maximum priority for his administration.
He said in 2011 that the United
States would play a more important role in Asia and,
in the longer term, in shaping the area and in its
future, and while he did not mention China, his
intentions regarding that country were obvious.
Since then his government has strengthened military
cooperation with traditional allies such as South
Korea and Australia, among others, in what he calls
a "rebalancing strategy".
Last June, U.S. Defense Secretary
Leon Panetta announced that by 2020 the Pentagon
would have deployed 60% of its naval fleet in
Pacific waters, a move intended to contain Beijing's
influence in the region, in a desperate attempt to
reaffirm its superior status in the world, a move
which some analysts say could lead to a new cold war.
The U.S. currently has more than
85,000 military personnel in the Asian Pacific. In
Japan alone there are around 47,000 serving soldiers.
However, these figures do not reflect soldiers
dispersed in countries neighboring China, such as
Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The United States has a huge number
of military bases on small Pacific islands, storage
points for nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
They are also used as testing sites and for and star
wars experiments. It is almost a colonial tactic,
consistent with its expansionist past.
During 2012, the U.S. used
diplomatic means – what Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton, calls "smart power" – to destabilize the
region, taking advantage of certain tensions present
at that time on the Korean Peninsula or territorial
disputes between China and other Asian countries.
According to an editorial published
in Diario del Pueblo, the U.S. has tried to
provoke a distancing between China and the other
countries around the South China Sea. These nations
had signed an agreement in 2002 to resolve their
differences via friendly bilateral accords, but the
United States suddenly showed an interest in the
issue, which could interfere with negotiations and
destabilize the region.
On his recent tour of Asia, Obama
visited Thailand and Myanmar, and attended the
Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)
Summit in Cambodia. At each stop he spoke about
closening ties. However, he did not miss the
opportunity to advise as to how they should resolve
difficulties regarding the sea, railing about human
rights and demanding clear rules from Beijing
regarding bilateral trade.
The majority of Asian governments
make relationships with Washington a priority to
different degrees and in line with their particular
interests. Nevertheless, it was announced in
Cambodia that in 2013, ASEAN and other regional
actors would take the first steps towards creating
what could become the largest free trade area in the
world, and the U.S. was excluded.
Obama could have chosen another
destination but he decided to go halfway round the
world only to come back empty-handed.