When Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office last year, he challenged the country's defense relationship with the United States, arguing that close ties with Washington had undermined Philippine relations with Beijing without providing security against China's occupation and construction on disputed islets. Essentially, the Philippines lost economic opportunities with China yet failed to benefit from security guarantees by the United States. It was the worst of both worlds. Duterte has since pursued a policy far different from that of his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, who doubled down on the relationship with the United States and took a largely confrontational attitude toward China. This is not to say that Manila has simply accepted the dual economic and security role for China in the region. It continues to assert its own rights, is expanding economic and security ties with Japan, and continues to engage with U.S. military forces in the region — and in the Philippines itself. 


South Korea is another case study in the dualistic policy of tying the economy to China and security to the United States, perhaps more overtly than most other countries in the region. South Korea has free trade agreements with both the United States and China. A quarter of South Korean exports go to China, a number that nears 30 percent when adding in Hong Kong. This compared with 14 percent to the United States. Meanwhile, China accounts for 21 percent of South Korean imports, while the United States accounts for just 10 percent. And China's role in the overall Korean supply chain, particularly with electronics, is masked in these baseline numbers. But when it comes to defense, the balance is entirely one-sided. The United States maintains 28,500 troops on the Korean Peninsula and retains operational control of South Korean forces in the Combined Forces Command, should hostilities with the North break out. 

break :勃発する

South Korea's decision to host the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system triggered a strong outcry from China. Beijing began complaining even before Seoul and Washington entered formal discussions about the deployment, and since a decision was made it has used unofficial measures to strike at the South Korean economy. Tourism flows to South Korea have slowed, Korean cultural and entertainment exports and tours in China have been curtailed, and Korean businesses are facing boycotts, spools of red tape and bureaucratic sluggishness. Washington, in return, has accelerated the pace of THAAD deployment, hoping to complete the placement of the systems before early South Korean elections, which are likely to bring a progressive candidate to power — one who could revisit the THAAD agreement. 

red tape:役所の事務的手続き
revisit: 再検討する

A Broken Consensus 
With U.S. participation in the TPP off the table, and U.S. defense seen as either insufficient to address regional concerns or, going to the other extreme, exacerbating economic challenges with China, there is a growing sense throughout Asia that the United States is simply not able to be counted on as a counterweight to China, at least not for the next several years. China's expanded military capability and activity is only reinforcing these views. The consensus forming is that the status quo balance between Chinese economy and U.S. security has already broken down. China's expansion was not effectively countered, whether by the so-called U.S. pivot (or re-balance) to Asia or by U.S. engagement with ASEAN and regional trade initiatives. For many in the region, it is not a question of what they prefer, but rather an acknowledgement of the shifting regional realities. When a country the size of China begins to assert its own interests, changes to the existing regional structure are inevitable. 

a country the size of China:中国のような規模の国

The discussion now is about options. Simply accepting that China will be a regional hegemon is unlikely for most countries in the region. Even the Philippines, which has seen such a dramatic shift in its public policy, is looking for a balancer to China's regional power and influence, possibly in Japan. And South Korea is re-thinking its overreliance on the Chinese economy. Some countries that were in the expanded TPP are looking to maintain momentum even without the United States, hoping that together they can either shape China's economic behavior or perhaps lure the United States back into at least a modified version of the trade agreement down the road. ASEAN is pressing for the long-delayed Code of Conduct with China to try to curtail China's apparent expansionist tendencies. But few individually or together have the overall heft of the United States. 

shape :具体化する
Code of Conduct:行動規範

In Singapore and New Zealand, two countries that have successfully navigated their dual relations with Washington and Beijing for some time, there is a fear that they may be forced to choose. If a trade war breaks out between the United States and China, it will not be only about trade; it will be about regional relationships, about interpretations of the rights of passage through the South China Sea, about the options for dealing with North Korea — in short, about the whole of Asia-Pacific stability. China is facing deep structural challenges as it undertakes the painful transition from an export-based economy to a consumption-based one, and it will consider any strong U.S. economic action to be a clear attempt to disrupt the transition and contain China. The United States sees each further step by China to assert its military capability through the South China Sea as a clear challenge to a core interest of freedom of navigation and control of the seas. 


Stuck between these two powers lie the Asia-Pacific countries, adapting to the changing balance of power and fearing a dramatic break in the pattern. Their ability to play both sides, to use the bookend powers of the Pacific Ocean as counterweights, may prove untenable if the there is a substantial slide in U.S.-China relations toward the negative. Few in the region are eager to choose sides, all are assessing their limited options, and the pervading hope is that somehow Washington and Beijing will continue their uneasy dance, leaving Asia-Pacific countries space enough to cheer both on. 





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