- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

Military Power Projection in Asia

Dennis C. Blair


This chapter examines the military power projection capabilities and policies of four major states in the Asia-Pacific region—the U.S., China, Japan, and India—and draws implications for the U.S.

Main Argument

Despite the military modernization programs underway in the region, the power projection capabilities of China, Japan, and India will remain limited and their policies restrained.

The U.S., which possesses the dominant force projection capabilities in Asia, is modernizing its forces and seems committed to continue using them in a restrained manner, often in support of the common good. Long-standing Asian flashpoints are contained, and future contentious issues do not seem susceptible to settlement by military force. Thus, rather than initiating a scramble for power and influence in the region, the major nations in Asia seem more likely to use their power projection capabilities for symbolic purposes, and there are encouraging signs that these countries are considering more multilateral cooperative operations.

Policy Implications

  • China, India, and Japan will not match the power projection capability of the U.S. These countries are, however, all developing the ability to deploy forces with the military capacity to threaten U.S. power projection task groups. In the event of crises in which their interests differed from those of the U.S., these countries could demand to play a role.
  • A scramble for power and influence among major Asian powers would be likely if a drawdown of the U.S. forward deployed military presence occurs in Asia.
  • Encouraging Asian governments to concentrate on the positive and cooperative uses of power projection capabilities for the common good will help counter internal advocates who call for more aggressive and nationalist policies. Such encouragement would promote habits of cooperation that support peaceful development.