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Strategic Flexibility to Deter in the Asia Pacific

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Journal Article

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100th Air Refueling Wing Royal Air Force Mildenhall United Kingdom

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The recent military resurgence of both China and Russia, along with the United States so-called rebalance to the Asia-Pacific and declining military budgets, suggests the need and opportunity to reevaluate US military policy for the region. Increased air and maritime shows of force, Chinas declaration of an unusually expansive air defense identification zone ADIZ in November 2013, its continued improvements to island infrastructure in the South China Sea over the past year, and Russias illegal annexation of Crimea, all point toward active and intentional policies to project regional strength by the two nations despite US political and military efforts to deter them.1- With the United States focused on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past two decades and in Syria today, China now presses its territorial claims more aggressively, with Russia interfering more brazenly.2 - In todays volatile security environmentparticularly in the Asia-Pacificthe United States should continue to move away from preCold War models of bilateral defense agreements supported by relatively large footprints of permanent forward military presence in favor of an expeditionary defense posture featuring strategic flexibility. Such a posture would enhance regional deterrence by reducing predictability and providing political leaders a greater range of responsive options.3 In-theater military capabilities of sufficient quantity, quality, responsiveness, and survivabilityfree from requirements to respond to a specific threat from a specific locationcomprise the key elements of a proposed US defense posture of strategic flexibility. To help achieve this posture in a period of budget austerity, the United States should pursue a trilateral defense relationship with its two most capable military allies in the regionJapan and the Republic of Korea ROKand consider modifications in the regional force structure that offer persistent presence but without precondition.

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