The presence of one country’s military on the territory of other nations has been the subject of international debate for many decades. This discussion, similarly to the activity itself, affects all countries of the world. In the case of the United States and their bases, the majority of other nations have a stake in the decisions that the Western country can make. For example, the region of East Asia, which includes such countries as Japan, South Korea, North Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK), China, and others, has some American military bases (Moore 2). The presence of the US military in the area is often explained by a variety of reasons, ranging from vital needs for national security against armed conflicts to the supporting of East Asian nations in their relations. However, the global view of such military intervention remains divided. The present report will examine the arguments that oppose the idea that the US should remove or reduce its military powers in East Asia.
Why the Military Should Stay
In order to examine the option of limiting American presence in the Eastern region, one has to investigate what reasons exist or have existed for the military to move into these territories. First of all, it should be remarked that East Asia does not present the same interests to the US as some other countries do. In some cases that concern countries of the Gulf region, the US invests in its economic relations with the other nations, thinking about resource potential (Glaser 4). In East Asia, however, the main reason for the US military presence in regional security, while economic interests do not extend far outside of trade relations (Connelly 11). Here, one may mention that South Korea and Japan are the main allies of the US in the area. The Western country’s support for these two nations is what guides the decisions for such involved interventions.
The first argument that opposes the US withdrawal from the region is that the Western country’s actions protect its allies. By stationing its military troops and building bases, the US ensures that it will be able to deploy forces to the regions that urgently need help. For instance, if either of the two allies (Japan or South Korea) is at risk of entering a major conflict, the US will quickly act to supply the nation with military resources. Regardless of the initiator of such events, the treaties between the US and its allies show that the nations are committed to supporting each other (Cha 28). The historical relationship that led to the establishment of military bases in Japan and Korea also formed a positive view of the US as a supporter of national security interests. Therefore, the role of the US in such conflicts may continue to be vital for the region’s peace.
The initiation of a military conflict is possible since both Japan and South Korea have a complicated relationship with another East Asian nation, DPRK. North Korean government, guided by a leader Kim Jon-Un, is known to change its view of other states (Bowden). The regime of the country is highly unstable, and its enforcement is highlighted as a high priority by the North Korean ruling party. DPRK’s history of conflict with South Korea is also closely tied to the US because the Western nation supported the Southern part of the region in the Korean War. North Korea expressed its desire to unite the region through violent means in the past (Bowden). Its military and nuclear capabilities are continuously being reevaluated, but their extent is concealed from the public and other governments (Bowden). Therefore, there is a possibility that military support for the states that could suffer an attack from North Korea will be required.
Apart from threatening South Korea and Japan, DPRK has also mentioned its opposition to the US. The government’s previous view of the Western nation was followed by claims that DPRK is working on a missile that will deal a devastating blow to the US (Bowden). Thus, one may argue that the presence of the US in the region is a part of its plan to ensure its own security as well. North Korea constitutes a high risk due to its unpredictability and lack of transparency in international relations (Cho and Lim 321). It is a closed country with a regime that strongly opposes the capitalistic and democratic nature of most nations. The US, on the other hand, possesses negative views on North Korean attempts to build nuclear weapons and gain more economic power in the region.
Another potential power that may challenge the US and its ties in East Asia is China. If the US chooses to limit its presence in the region, China will have an opportunity of establishing its’ influence over the territory. It is unclear to which outcomes such a shift in power may bring, but it may destabilize the relations between other Asian countries since they all have different ruling structures and strong ideologies.
Moreover, the Chinese economy continues to grow, and this nation is one of the major allies of North Korea. Nonetheless, the current relations between China and the US are complex but not hostile, with Beijing benefiting from the open sea lanes that the US military presence guarantees (Shirk 21). China’s economic power may be, in part, connected to the US influence in the region. In this case, another argument arises to support the presence of the US – the financial benefit for Asian countries. South Korea and Japan pay for some expenses of the US military, and China utilizes some agreements for export movements (Glaser 3). Arguably, the disruption of the established balance can change the current relations among developed and unstable Asian states.
Why the Military Should Leave
Despite the evident reasons for the US military forces to stay within the specified region, many arguments support the idea that the US should close its military bases in East Asia, withdrawing its military and limiting its overall presence. The claim that the US is protecting itself from North Korea is debated here. While the remotely stationed troops may assist other countries, it is unclear how their location can aid the Western nation. The US spends a significant share of its budget on its military and the presence in other regions may take away from the national needs of the US (Glaser 15). Moreover, one may argue that the current political landscape is far from that, which required such vast interventions in the first place. Conflicts, although still plausible, are less imminent and different in nature.
The reason to station troops in Asia to deter other countries from conflicts may also be ineffective for maintaining peace. The concept of deterrence is based on the fact that opposing states will act against each other without provoking, and one should prevent them from moving forward with intimidation (Shirk 22). Nonetheless, the usefulness of this strategy is unclear due to the interpretations that other states may accept. For example, the US presence may be viewed as a step to control other nations through military power (Bowden). Countries with unstable regimes and changing views such as North Korea can develop insecurities about the expanding influence of the US and adopt a negative view of this intervention.
Furthermore, it remains disputed whether the US presence positively affects nuclear proliferation. The protection by the US may not stop Asian countries from developing nuclear weapons. Similarly, if North Korea feels threatened by the US, it may increase its efforts to produce atomic weapons that will lower its fear of American pressure in the region (Glaser 8). However, withdrawal may place more responsibility on the Asian countries to build their relationships with each other and create agreements that are not enforced by another power but created by the involved nations. The lack of anxiety induced by Western influence can also deter North Korea and China from aggressive action.
Apart from military, political, and economic fears heightened by the US power, countries of East Asia may develop local resentment toward foreign intervention. There exist people in all Asian countries who view American military bases as intruders into their regional affairs (Glaser 6). As a result, such tensions may grow into conflicts and unstable financial relations as well as an overall negative opinion about the US. It is vital to note that such resentment may last for decades since international ties are difficult to repair but easy to break.
Finally, returning to the history of conflicts and the US support of its allies in East Asia, one should consider the progress in technology that has changed how military conflicts are prevented and resolved currently. It is to the advantage of people under threat to receive help quickly. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the US will not be able to support other nations without large local military bases. Transportation used by troops at the moment is much faster and more efficient than it was during previous wars in the region. The speed and capacity of such devices allow arriving on time (Glaser 24). Furthermore, such bases are passively operating at all times, meaning that they use resources that could otherwise be saved. The use of drones and artificial intelligence provides the US with similar advantages, making the need to establish bases obsolete.
Because of the threat of political misbalance and possible disturbances in East Asia, it is critical for the U.S. military bases to remain in the specified area as the means of controlling the issue and maintaining peace. Although the dilemma of the military presence of the US in East Asia can be examined from different points of view, the general threat of military or economic attacks that some countries may experience from powerful states remains in place. Therefore, while the issue remains controversial, the presence of U.S. military bases in East Asia is currently essential for world peace. For example, North Korea is a country that is unpredictable enough to warrant some precaution, but its changing relationships with the US and other countries put the pressure of deterrence politics into question. The financial side of such involvement is also challenging to review. The US spends a significant amount of its money on the military, and it may be difficult to estimate how its economy would change if it were to withdraw a large portion of its troops. To sum up, the sides arguing about the presence of the US has had to concede that the presence of American military bases reduces the economic and military tensions within the specified region.
Bowden, Mark. “How to Deal with North Korea.” The Atlantic. 2017, Web.
Cha, Victor D. “Complex Patchworks: US Alliances as Part of Asia’s Regional Architecture.” Asia Policy, vol. 11, 2011, pp. 27-50.
Cho, Pyungse, and Jae-Cheon Lim. “North Korea’s Foreign Policymaking and Nuclear Weapons.” Asian Survey, vol. 58, no. 2, 2018, pp. 320-340.
Connelly, Aaron L. “Autopilot: East Asian Policy under Trump.” Lowy Institute, 2017.
Glaser, John. “Withdrawing from Overseas Bases: Why a Forward-Deployed Military Posture Is Unnecessary, Outdated, and Dangerous.” Cato Institute Policy Analysis, vol. 816, 2017, pp. 1-28.
Moore, Adam. “Book Review: Contract Workers, Risk, and the War in Iraq: Sierra Leonean Labor Migrants at US Military Bases.” SAGE Journals, vol. 1, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1-2.
Shirk, Susan. “Trump and China: Getting to Yes with Beijing.” Foreign Affairs, vol. 96, 2017, pp. 20-27.