The United States has been an Asia-Pacific power since its victory over Spain in 1898. As regional power balances have shifted and U.S. global priorities have changed, Washington's strategy toward the region has likewise evolved. During the Cold War, containment of Communist expansion drove the United States to fight wars in Korea and Vietnam, and to establish a robust network of alliances and military bases throughout the region. The years after the September 11 attacks refocused significant U.S. attention and resources on fighting terrorism around the world and defeating rogue regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As these wars draw to a close and the Asia-Pacific emerges as the global geopolitical center of gravity, the United States is again shifting its focus and resources toward the region. This policy of "strategic rebalancing" has included initiatives across all elements of American power, including new troop deployments in Australia and Singapore, enhanced military cooperation with the Philippines, a free trade agreement with South Korea, progress in negotiations to form a Trans-Pacific Partnership, and participation in the East Asia Summit.
We have not yet seen the totality of what rebalancing will eventually look like. This is not the project of a few years but rather a major national endeavor that will encompass several budget cycles and several presidential administrations. A key question for U.S. policymakers and scholars is where strategic rebalancing will go from here. How can this policy be sustained and deepened, especially as Asia's power rises and defense budgets at home face significant constraints?
The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) has focused on addressing this question through a number of initiatives. The July 2012 issue of Asia Policy featured a roundtable in which key American scholars and former high-level officials presented their assessments of what strategic rebalancing means for U.S. power in the Asia-Pacific. Beginning in January 2013, NBR is undertaking a major study on the future of U.S. alliances and partnerships in the region. In part to help inaugurate this study, this [End Page 2] roundtable explores a key dynamic that will shape the future of strategic rebalancing: how the region itself is reacting.
To address this vital topic, Asia Policy has invited top scholars in Australia, China, India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand to comment on the United States' rebalancing strategy. We are deeply grateful to these scholars for their exceptional contributions. [End Page 3]