James L. Schoff
Asia-Pacific policy issues in the 108th Congress are likely to be dominated by the war on terrorism, the nuclear crisis in North Korea, and the growing influence of China. On North Korea, Congress could be asked to support a revised agreement with that country regarding energy, food, and security assurances in exchange for the verifiable dismantling of its nuclear program, or it could be called on to support some sort of sanctions or military action, depending on developments beyond its control. Meanwhile, U.S.-China relations are relatively stable and promising as a new framework emerges for debating human rights versus trade issues. There are several potential areas of conflict in Congress regarding China, however, including political and military relations with Taiwan, new national security rules in Hong Kong, and lax Chinese enforcement of rules on weapons proliferation. The war on terrorism is perceived in Washington as casting a dark shadow over Southeast Asia, and there is a risk that this will boil down to a simplistic debate over the primacy of counter-terrorist initiatives versus human rights (with U.S. policy towards Indonesia as the most prominent and divisive case). Increased trade is another aspect of the United States’ counter-terrorism strategy, and Congress will consider a Free Trade Agreement with Singapore and possibly other agreements under the Bush Administration’s "Enterprise for ASEAN Initiative."