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

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building 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.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
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 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 Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

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 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 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.

VOA Blogs