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CNN: Ten Big Questions for Obama, Romney on Asia

Author: Patrick M. Cronin
April 18, 2012

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Patrick Cronin says that Asian security issues have barely been discussed in the U.S. presidential campaign. How can a diminished U.S. military meet challenges in the region?

Asian security may figure greatly in this year's U.S. presidential election because of urgent questions about North Korea and enduring concerns over how best to manage a rising China and preserve American influence.

In addition to Asia's looming role in the global economy, specific recent developments ensure that Asia will surface as an issue during the final months of the U.S. presidential campaign.

Asian security issues should be debated during the course of the election, and they will be framed in terms starkly different from those likely to be heard among Asian experts ruminating at a conference. While foreign capitals and analysts will scrutinize campaign rhetoric for clues, they would do well to remember that governing is different from campaigning.

President Obama's announcement last year of a pivot to Asia underscores a long-term trend in which the United States is gradually placing greater priority on the Asia-Pacific region. Economic power is shifting from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and emerging powers such as China and India are increasingly flexing their muscles as regional military and political powers.

Both Japan and South Korea, and Indonesia and its smaller neighbors in Southeast Asia, are all, to varying degrees, responding to these trends. Long-term plans are driven mostly by a rising China, uncertainty about America's long-term presence and increasing capacity for building local and coastal defenses and shaping regional institutions.

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