Given the growing importance of East Asia to global stability and prosperity, sustaining the five U.S. treaty alliances in the region—Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines—will remain one of Washington’s central foreign policy priorities in the decade ahead. The Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations and their counterparts have made significant strides during the past decade to adapt U.S. alliances with Japan, Australia, and the ROK to new circumstances. Sustaining these relationships as mature partnerships will require that the allies maintain candid, high-level political dialogues, further transform their armed forces, and redouble efforts to sustain domestic support. In light of the growing interest of East Asian governments in expanded regional cooperation, it will also be important to demonstrate how these alliances provide a stable context for and complement multilateral arrangements. Relations with Thailand and the Philippines have advanced in recent years on the strength of counterterrorism, humanitarian relief, and peacekeeping cooperation. Several partnerships in Southeast Asia are benefiting from practical cooperation on humanitarian activities and in combating terrorism and other transnational threats as well as the growth of democracy in the region.
All these efforts are intertwined with Washington’s handling of several complex challenges, including the North Korean nuclear weapons program and potential instability on the Korean peninsula, a rising China and cross-strait tension between China and Taiwan, the sustenance of regional cooperation in combating terrorism, the realignment and transformation of the U.S. military presence in the region, Japan’s expanding role in international security affairs, and the promotion of peace and prosperity in Southeast Asia.