Why does the United States maintain a network of alliances in Asia? Recent authoritative U.S. policy documents including the 2017 National Security Strategy, the Department of Defense’s Indo-Pacific Strategy Report and the Department of State’s A Free and Open Indo-Pacific: Advancing a Shared Vision, as well as the Congress’s 2018 Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, describe Japan and South Korea as America’s asymmetric advantages in maintaining regional peace and stability.

Skeptics would argue these key American partners are merely free riders on America’s good will, worth defending only to the extent that the U.S. can squeeze money out of them to offset the costs of such protection. If allies are indeed valued partners in sustaining an order that has supported U.S. global interests and influence for over 70 years — as America’s communist adversaries in Beijing and Pyongyang clearly believe — then what expectations should the U.S. have of its allies in terms of their defense spending and contributions to hosting U.S. forces?

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