Thayer Consultancy

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Background Brief: United States: Implications of Obama’s Re-election for the Asia-Pacific Carlyle A. Thayer November 8, 2012

[client name deleted] What is your assessment of the following: 1. Whether a new Secretary of State will lead to some change in US policy, especially about the Asia-Pacific region? Do you expect any change in policy to cope with China's actions and ambitions in the region as well as the conflicts at South China Sea and East China Sea? ANSWER: The re-election of President Obama will mean continuity in U.S. policy towards the Asia-Pacific, Southeast Asia and the South China Sea. If Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cannot be persuaded to change her mind, she will be replaced by someone who is senior in the current Administration who was part of drawing up U.S. policy. The style of diplomacy will change due to a change of personalities but the substance will remain the same. The fundamental tenets of U.S. policy on the South China Sea were set by President Bill Clinton and have remained constant since then. The U.S. will seek to engage China especially as China's new leadership takes the helm. But the U.S. will oppose acts of intimidation and bullying. 2. In terms of military strategy, can you provide some comments about future moves of the US at the West Pacific? ANSWER: Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will remain in office and this ensures there will be continuity in policy not change. The U.S. will become more active with its allies and strategic partners. Already this past month four nuclear attack submarines visited the Philippines. U.S. aircraft carriers will transit the South China Sea. The U.S. will push its allies to be more multilateral in their defence activities. In other words, the military budget for the Asia-Pacific will not be cut and the U.S. will give priority to the deployment of its most modern naval and air assets to the AsiaPacific.

Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “United States: Implications of Obama’s Reelection for the Asia-Pacific,” Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, November 8, 2012.

Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123

Background Brief: South China Sea: Implication of Obama’s Re-election Carlyle A. Thayer November 8, 2012

[client name deleted] Now that Obama has got re-elected, what is your assessment of on how significant it is to the US "pivot" toward the Asia-Pacific and if there would be any shift in the way the US deals with the South China Sea tensions? ANSWER: President Obama's re-election means that there will be a continuity of U.S. policy towards rebalancing its force posture in the Asia-Pacific. Some of this shift in emphasis, such as deploying more U.S. nuclear attack submarines, was in place before the policy of rebalancing was announced. The U.S. will step up its presence and will step up the level of activities and exercises with its allies and other strategic partners in Southeast Asa . U.S. policy today has its origins in the Clinton Administration when it was announced that the United State would not take sides on the merits of competing territorial claims. But the U.S. would insist on freedom of navigation and overflight. Rebalancing is a prerogative of the Defense Department and Secretary Panetta will continue to pursue policies already in place. Secretary of State Clinton, if she cannot be persuaded to change her mind, will step down and likely be replaced by someone senior in the current Administration. This too will mean continuity in U.S. diplomatic support for a collaborative diplomatic solution to territorial claims in the South China Sea and the early negotiation of a Code of Conduct. The U.S. will continue to support ASEAN.

Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “South China Sea: Implication of Obama’s Reelection,” Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, November 8, 2012.

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