News / USA

Kerry Concerned About US Military Buildup in Asia

John Kerry, January 24, 2012
John Kerry, January 24, 2012
The nominee to be the United States' next top diplomat, John Kerry, turned some heads Thursday when he appeared to criticize parts of one of the Obama administration's key foreign policy objectives: the U.S. pivot toward Asia.

Kerry, who is almost certain to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she steps down later this year, told a Senate confirmation hearing he is "not convinced that a military ramp-up is critical yet" in Asia, saying it may unnecessarily offend China. "We have a lot more forces out there than any other nation in the world, including China," he said. "And the Chinese take a look at that and say, 'What's the United States doing? Are they trying to circle us?' I think we need to be thoughtful in how we go forward."

Since President Barack Obama announced his so-called "pivot" toward the region in late 2011, Australia, the Philippines, Singapore and other countries in the Asia-Pacific have seen an increase in U.S. equipment, troops and military cooperation.

Administration officials, who now usually refer to the shift as a "rebalancing" rather than a "pivot," insist they are not trying to contain China's rising power. But many in Beijing remain unconvinced, contending they are being increasingly cornered by U.S. allies.

Some analysts say it is significant that Kerry is acknowledging those concerns. But it is not clear whether it could amount to a change in strategy for the administration, which views the pivot as a signature foreign policy of its first term.

Bonnie Glaser is a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. In an interview with VOA, she points out that it is the president, not the secretary of state, who decides military commitments.

"That does sound somewhat different from what the current secretary of defense [Leon Panetta] has been saying. But ultimately that is a decision that the president is going to have to make, about where our military commitments are going to be. The current position of the administration is to not draw down our military commitments in Asia," Glaser stated.

At his confirmation hearing, Kerry acknowledged as much, saying he does not suggest that the U.S. reduce its current force in Asia, and that there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about China's intentions.

But Stephen Lewis, a China scholar at Houston's Rice University, tells VOA it is important that U.S. officials recognize Chinese leaders perceive the pivot as a threat.

"It's an important point to be made, mainly because this is something that the Chinese government has always complained about," says Lewis, who adds that Chinese citizens are concerned about the pivot as well. "They see it as a legitimate point, that the United States seems to be opposing Chinese efforts to go overseas, whereas we actually do have a number of military bases overseas."

Lewis says Kerry's comments probably do not represent a fundamental change in U.S. policy. He points out that no other administration official has made similar comments.

Glaser, the analyst at CSIS, agrees. She says even though she does not think the U.S. policy is aimed at China, perceptions still matter. "I think that it is important for any secretary of state to be able to put him or herself in the shoes of another country in the world, and understand how that country views the United States," she said. "China has some concerns about the U.S. rebalancing strategy ... We need to understand that perception, that doesn't mean we need to agree with it."

Additional reporting by Victor Beattie

  • Senator John Kerry emerges after a unanimous vote by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approving him to become America's next top diplomat, January 29, 2013.
  • Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry arrives on Capitol Hill for the start of his confirmation hearing to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, January 24, 2013.
  • John Kerry sits before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he has served on for 28 years and led for the past four as he seeks confirmation as U.S. secretary of state, January 24, 2013.
  • John Kerry waves as he walks to the podium to address the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, September 6, 2012.
  • Barack Obama works the crowd during his first presidential campaign with John Kerry, during a rally at the College of Charleston campus in South Carolina, where Kerry endorsed Mr. Obama, January 10, 2008.
  • Then-Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry points toward the audience beside his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry after the presidential debate in Tempe, Arizona, October 13, 2004.
  • Then President George W. Bush and John Kerry greet each other at the end of their first presidential debate at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, September 30, 2004.
  • John Kerry windsurfs off the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts when he was the Democratic presidential candidate, August 30, 2004.
  • Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry along with his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry greet supporters during a fundraiser when he was the Democratic presidential candidate in Boston, Massachusetts, 2003.
  • Senator John Kerry is swarmed by supporters as he arrives for a re-election victory rally in Boston, Massachusetts, November 5, 1996.
  • John Kerry raises his arms in victory in this November 6, 1984 photo in a Boston hotel where he celebrated his defeat over Ray Shamie, in the Senate race.

You May Like

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: leosmith from: NC
January 29, 2013 8:09 PM
It might just be a little good-cop bad-cop. Most indications are that China is (very slowly) heading for democracy and capitalism. If and when that happens, we can relax a little, but not before that.

by: musawi ,melake from: '
January 26, 2013 6:25 PM
If this is genuine and comes from the heart of the man that would be running Osama’s public relations for the next four years, then things aren't going to bee easy for the friends of the USA, as they are hoping to break the strangulation by the string of pearls. Of course there are others in the region that are happy to see a more relaxed status in the Chino-US relations, that would give them more time for them to show the head to Beijing and the tail to Washington, while perusing their own agenda domestically and regionally. On the whole the dominance of the Indian-ocean region by the Maoist is certain to continue.

by: Tashi from: new jersey
January 26, 2013 3:06 PM
Seasoned politician as Kerry is must put American interests before his personal business goals. Communist China with newly acquired wealth is directly threatening neighbors and challenging our presence in the region. As Secretary appointee, he can not ignore the reality on the ground and misinform our President.

by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
January 26, 2013 12:37 AM
Playing down your strenght could be a big error, perceived weakness, is just that. National interest are not about plesantries, but about clear strategic global objectives, backed up by demonstrable tactical resources, to ensure that the required deterrent postures are not mistaken or misunderstood. Nothing is more likely to result in miscalculations, and lead to a conflict, but a failure to have a demonstrable deterrent, coupled with the willigness to use it. In addition, strenghtening your knowledge/position that the international legal framework is in fact on your side, and clearly enunciating this fact, should get the neighborhood on your side.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs