Australia and the US Asian Alliance Network

Executive Summary

  • The United States’ presence in the Indo-Asia-Pacific is transforming from a traditional alliance network (of Australia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand) into a web of strengthened alliances, new partnerships and creative linkages.
  • Washington must manage this transformation carefully, so its alliance network maintains a deterrent function and reassures allies, but does not exacerbate USChina tensions.
  • The changing regional setting has increased ANZUS’ value to both Australia and the United States. However, ANZUS has emerging fault lines that need to be addressed, including the risk that Australia’s and America’s strategic objectives might diverge

Australia has a major interest in the stability of the US Asian alliance network and broader regional web. The transformation of the US Asian alliance network beyond a hub-and-spoke framework is driven by shifting power relativities, particularly China’s rise and assertive regional behaviour. It is also part of a broader regional transformation, with a flurry of linkages not involving the United States forged in the last year alone. China is watching the changing US presence with suspicion, but also participating in some of the regional connections. Managing the tension between the threatbalancing and order-building dimensions of its network is an ongoing challenge for Washington.

Three policy priorities should guide Australian efforts to deepen both ANZUS and Australia’s regional relationships. First, ANZUS should become even more enmeshed in the emerging regional web of relationships and institutions. Canberra should articulate to regional partners and Washington how ANZUS fits into (and often complements) Australia’s regional engagement. Second, Canberra should contribute more to Washington’s deliberations on China’s rise. This includes finding pathways for China within this regional order, while remaining firm on important regional norms. Third, ANZUS’ formal mechanisms should be broadened to ensure a greater focus on fostering mutual and regional prosperity. Expanding the AUSMIN foreign and defence ministerial dialogue to include geoeconomic issues would enable a more comprehensive discussion on regional matters with strategic and economic dimensions. This would allow the 65 year-old ANZUS to be more effective in a transforming Asia.

Read the full publication Australia and the US Asian Alliance Network

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Mar 14, 2016
Elsina Wainwright
China, East Asia, United States