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Tenets of a Regional Defense Strategy: Considerations for the Indo-Pacific

Jonathan W. Greenert

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This report provides U.S. policymakers with an assessment of the impact of seven key players in the Indo-Pacific, framed around five security concerns, and draws implications for U.S. campaign plans based on an analysis of the unique factors associated with each of the key regional countries.

Main Findings

Of the security concerns in the Indo-Pacific, the challenges are particularly acute in five current hotspots: the Korean Peninsula, the East China Sea, the South China Sea, the India-Pakistan border, and the Taiwan Strait. As the U.S. refines campaign plans in accordance with the National Security Strategy and the classified National Defense Strategy, it is essential that commanders and planners understand the diverse impact of the influence associated with the key players. This diversity is rooted in different levels of national power, approaches to strategic culture, and understandings of national security strategies.

Implications

  • The diversity among the key regional players requires a careful reckoning of each player’s formation of national power, as well as the likelihood and means of using that national power.
  • As planners assess the diversity in the region, they should embrace that the regional security situation remains complex. Despite potentially transformational political developments on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea is the most pressing national security issue requiring urgent reconciliation on the part of the U.S. and its allies.
  • The capacity for accumulating power and President Xi Jinping’s somewhat revisionist “China dream” goals make China the greatest long-term security challenge. The country continues to build military and economic power, which it is increasingly willing to use in defense of interests farther afield, driven by economic needs and a populace calling for China to take its proper place in the world.
  • Long-standing U.S. allies South Korea and Japan are developing important military capabilities to deal with regional security challenges, but they still require strong reassurance from within and deeper military engagement with the U.S.
  • Indian and Indonesian domestic strategies of autonomy and nonalignment hamper deeper integration with the U.S. The national power possessed by India and Indonesia is more potential than actual, but nonetheless very real and worthy of attention.
  • As Taiwan faces increased pressure from China, multidimensional U.S. support for Taiwan’s democracy must continue to include a deepening trade relationship and focused diplomatic support, in addition to security assurances and provisions of advanced weapons.