Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 138-139)


22 MARCH 2006

  Q138 Chairman: Good afternoon everybody. I would like to welcome our witnesses this afternoon. We are going to have three witnesses but I think one is delayed, so we will start with two and go from there. When you respond could you introduce yourselves for the record, Dr Fell and Dr Swenson-Wright. Thank you for coming. Can I begin by asking you about the politics of security in the East Asian region. The United States has played a significant role for over 50 years in the security of that region. How do you feel that that will be maintained or changed in coming years, and, with the rise of China and other changes in the region, how do you think that will be developed in the future?

  Dr Swenson-Wright: First of all, may I say thank you for inviting me to address the Committee. It is a great pleasure to be here.

  Q139  Chairman: Could you introduce yourself as well, please?

  Dr Swenson-Wright: Yes; John Swenson-Wright, University of Cambridge. I think, if we are trying to assess America's role in the region, it is clear from recent policy announcements, most strikingly the National Security Strategy that was published in February, that the United States remains committed. It sees itself as a Pacific power. It sees itself tied to the region, partly because of the obvious economic interest the country has in East Asia. It is concerned over the rising security threats of China and North Korea and, as the National Security Strategy makes clear, the Bush administration remains committed to the active promotion of democracy which reinforces its commitment to staying in the region. As you probably also know, the American administration has drafted a new security doctrine, the Global Force Posture Review, and we see in that, from a military point of view certainly, a commitment on the part of the United States to maintain a flexible presence within the region, albeit a reduced one; so one should not view the build down of military forces, whether from the Korean peninsular or the reallocation of forces from Japan to Guam, as a sign of diminishing commitment. Far from it, I see it much more as a re-emphasis of America's commitment to stay within the region in a fashion that allows it to exert maximum flexibility; a strategy based on a hub and spokes approach involving the use of both bilateral and multilateral alliances, which some people have criticised for lacking an integrated strategy, but, nonetheless, gives the United States the opportunity to build "coalitions of the willing" with some of its key allies, most notably Japan, emphasising the importance of flexibility; and, as we have seen from the recent meeting between Secretary of State Rice and her Japanese and Australian counterparts in Canberra recently, the United States is looking to develop new partnerships within the region to meet the challenge and the threats posed by China and other countries.

  Dr Fell: I am Dafydd Fell. I am a Research Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies. My main research area is the domestic politics and external politics of Taiwan; so I am essentially qualified to speak on areas related to Taiwan. I have not done an awful lot of work on the external relations, particularly US/Chinese relations, but I can talk a little bit about the Taiwanese point of view on this issue which generally is quite distinct from many other East Asian countries. Taiwan tends to take a rather positive view of the US role in East Asian security. Taiwan was one of the few countries that was quite supportive of the US role in Iraq, and Taiwan naturally is supportive of the US presence in East Asia. We do not see the same kind of anti-American public opinion that has been growing in both South Korea and Japan in Taiwan. Again, anti-American feeling is very, very marginal in the Taiwan case.

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