A U.S. Defense Department report warns that China's military buildup is reaching the point where it can attempt to "impose its will on the region and beyond." Visiting recently with senior officials from two U.S. allies in the region, Japan and Singapore, gave me a visceral feeling of how things look on the ground (and at sea). "We are deeply concerned about the U.S. long-term commitment in the region, starting with troops in South Korea — especially in the face of China and their determined military expansion," a senior Japanese official told me.
The constant refrain was simple: The West is becoming a less reliable partner. These allies are dismayed by a U.S. administration that has repeatedly criticized its closest partners and accused them of freeloading on defense. They are also worried about weakness and distraction of a Europe facing Brexit. This is compounded as they watch China increase pressure on Taiwan to accept a "one nation, two systems" deal a la Hong Kong and militarize the South China Sea by constructing artificial islands.
Japan, in particular, faces a host of challenges from Beijing. These begin with a long and bitter history of conflict, principally stemming from World War II but also dating back to the Sino-Japanese War more than a century ago.