Editor’s Note: In an interview with PBS NewsHour’s Joe Suarez, Jeffrey Bader discusses strategy behind the Obama administration’s recent policy shift toward the Asia Pacific region.
RAY SUAREZ: Why [did President Obama announce permanent military presense in Australia]? Who threatens Australia?
JEFFREY BADER: Well, in part, this is an affirmation of the U.S.-Australia alliance.
This is a—as you say, a 60-year-old alliance. Australia contributes more troops to Afghanistan than any other non-NATO country. Australian troops have fought alongside American troops in every war in the last century. So this is an affirmation of the alliance.
But, beyond that, it’s a statement about the U.S. determination to stay in the Asia-Pacific region. We believe that our presence, our security presence, in the Asia-Pacific region is critical to peace and prosperity in the region. It’s helped maintain that peace and prosperity for most of the last 60 years.
The countries in the region welcome our presence there. And they are uneasy about the impact of potential budget cuts on the defense side and what that might mean for deployments of U.S. forces in the region. So by making this announcement today, the president, in essence, is saying that whatever our struggle, our difficulties may be in terms of the defense budget, we are going to keep our deployments west of Hawaii intact.
[South Korean President] Moon’s challenge is get something from Kim [Jong-un] that he can then sell to [President] Trump. To judge from Trump’s endless flattery of Kim, this shouldn’t be too hard. The question is whether this game can persist indefinitely without definitive evidence of North Korean actions [as opposed to words] of what Kim has supposedly agreed to.