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US Indo-Pacific Allies in the Shadow of US-China Strategic Rivalry

A panel discussion on the evolution of the US-China relationship over the last two decades and the impact of the US-China strategic rivalry on US Indo-Pacific alliances, including US-ROK relations and coordination on North Korea

In a context of worsening US-China relations amidst COVID-19 and the broader designation of China as a strategic competitor, the Stimson Center’s Security for a New Century (SNC) and 38 North Programs brought together a panel of experts to discuss US Indo-Pacific Allies in the Shadow of US-China Strategic Rivalry. 

The webinar was a closed-door, invitation-only program for congressional staffers and was part of SNC’s Korea Study Group event series. The panelists offered a combination of senior-level US government experience and analytical expertise of contemporary policy issues surrounding US-China relations, regional alliances, and defense policy.

The panel explored how the US-China relationship has evolved over the last two decades and how the US-China strategic rivalry impacts US Indo-Pacific alliances, including US-ROK relations and coordination on North Korea, as well as ways to manage US alliances as they evolve within a rapidly shifting strategic context amidst COVID-19 and the reemergence of great power rivalry. Key takeaways from the discussion were that for the US to persuade allies in the region to follow its lead, it should give strategic priority to the Indo-Pacific by moving away from the Middle East; increase the multilateral involvement of allies in security, diplomatic, and economic forums, especially to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative; and should plan and coordinate with allies more robustly in terms of collective defense, in the manner of the US-ROK and US-Japan alliances. While pursuing competition with Beijing, Washington should also still maintain areas of cooperation as well. 

The webinar was moderated by Dr. Clint Work, Fellow for Stimson’s Security for a New Century and 38 North programs. The featured speakers were: Admiral Dennis Blair, former Director of National Intelligence and Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command; Christine E. Wormuth, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (2014-2016); and Ashley Townshend, Director, Foreign Policy and Defence, United States Studies Centre.

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