The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors alone and not the University System of Alaska or the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
"Luck is where preparation meets opportunity."
"Not all those who wander are lost."
--J. R. Tolkien
The threads of connections between America and Asia cross and re-cross on the loom of life at various levels. Like immigrants from Europe during the nineteenth century, immigration from Asia (especially China) transformed America in multiple ways. At that time, no one could have previsioned America's relationship with Asia as clearly as Cassandra previsioned the fall of Troy.
Most recently, nearly seventy years after the end of the Second World War, relations between Japan (the world's third largest economy) and China (the world's second largest economy), colored by old wounds, have seen deterioration over disputed islands in the East China Sea. This has put the United States (the world's largest economy), because of its military alliances with Japan and South Korea, in an unwelcome situation. Last November, China's unilateral declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone over a part of the East China Sea that includes the disputed islands of Senkaku and Diaoyu drew sharp US criticism and warning. The Philippines is another American treaty ally. America's Pacific destiny also includes an ambitious trade agreement (Trans-Pacific Partnership) involving the United States, Japan, and ten other countries (but not China).
In 2012-13, of the 819,644 international students who came to US universities, the majority (64 percent) came from Asia. The top three countries sending students to the United States are China (235,597); India (96,754); and South Korea (70,627). How true is the increasing inter-connectedness of the United States with Asia!
President Obama's announcement in his first term of a major strategic reorientation in US foreign policy--the so-called "pivot" or "rebalancing" to Asia--was a clear signal to America's Asian allies that the United States is still an Asia-Pacific power and that it would fulfill its commitments to maintaining peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region. This appears to be a wise decision. Particularly worrisome are the tensions between the People's Republic of China and its Asian neighbors. For instance, China and Japan are locked in a bitter and emotional territorial dispute over the Diaoyu and Senkaku Islands, and China has aggrieved several Southeast Asian nations, particularly the Philippines, over its claims to islands far beyond China's borders in the South China Sea. In the so-called 2009-2010 "year of assertiveness," China picked fights with and irritated relations with Australia, ASEAN countries, India, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Vietnam.
This new foreign policy re-orientation is making Alaska's strategic presence on the Pacific Rim increasingly important. Several reasons could be cited. First, Alaska's role in America's military force posture in Asia is being expanded. Although Alaska is covered under the US Northern Command, its forces based there are part of the US Pacific...