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 Egyptian Journalists Call for Press Freedom

Despite release of al-Jazeera journalists and others, Egyptian Journalist Syndicate says some remain imprisoned More

Turkey Survey Indicates Traditional Distrusts, Shift to the West

Comprehensive public opinion survey also found a large majority of those interviewed distrust all countries other than country’s neighbor, Azerbaijan More

Pakistan Court Upholds Death Sentence in Blasphemy Killing

Highest court upholds sentence of Mumtaz Qadri convicted of 2011 killing a provincial governor for criticizing country’s controversial blasphemy law 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.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs