WASHINGTON, DC – As territorial frictions involving China and many of its neighbors persist in the East and South China Seas, the United States needs a clearer regional strategy. America must simultaneously uphold its interests and alliance commitments and avoid counterproductive confrontation, or even conflict.
Doing so will be difficult, especially because it is not clear whose claims to the region’s disputed islands and outcroppings should be recognized, and the US has no intention of trying to impose a solution. At the same time, the US must modernize its armed forces in response to new challenges – particularly China’s rise. As China develops advanced precision weapons to create a so-called anti-access/area-denial capability, the US must consider how to respond to the growing vulnerability of its bases and naval forces in the region.
There is no easy answer to these challenges. What is needed is a nuanced approach, which is what we develop in our new book Strategic Reassurance and Resolve.
Our approach is an adaptation of America’s longstanding “engage but hedge” strategy, through which the US and its allies have used economic, diplomatic, and sometimes military instruments to give China incentives to rise peacefully, while maintaining robust military capabilities in case engagement proves unsuccessful.