From Central to E Asia: China factor behind US withdrawal from Afghanistan

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    By Soroor Ahmed (NVONews.Com)

    First it reduced/partially withdrew its forces from West Asia. Now it plans to do the same from the Central Asian country of Afghanistan.

    After Iraq and Afghanistan the United States is shifting its attention towards East Asian theatre where the Chinese appears to be going relatively unchecked, specially in South China Sea. It is not that the United States has fully withdrawn from West Asia, but it is a fact that now the Obama administration has been reminded of the growing Chinese naval strength in East and South East Asia.

    It is not that Washington has left the field open for Beijing in the region. In the form of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Philippines etc it has a number of allies, but surely the US naval presence has not grown in the region as fast as China, which has a number of additional advantage.

    The problem with the US is that South China Sea too is rich in energy like the West and Central Asian nations. Unlike West Asia the US allies in East Asia have rich human resources too. Here the challenge is being posed directly by emerging superpower whereas that is not the case in West Asia.

    The standoff between the Philippines and China over Scarborough Shoal provided the United States an opportunity to once again come to the support of the old ally in the region.

    Reports suggest that notwithstanding the United States fatigue with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Pentagon’s steep budget cuts it will now deploy 60 per cent of its warships in the Asia-Pacific region, up from 50 per cent now. They will include six aircraft carriers and a majority of the US navy’s cruisers, destroyers, littoral combat ships and submarines.

    It is not only the old US allies who are looking towards Washington for help even countries like Vietnam, which fought a prolong war, is wary of the Chinese naval expansion. Vietnam is engaged in oil exploration in South China Sea, where Beijing too has a keen interest.

    Early this month Philippines President Benigno Aquino met President Barack Obama at the White House, where the two discussed expanding military and economic ties.

    After last Friday’s meeting Obama told reporters that clear, international rules were needed to resolve maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

    However, experts are of the view that while China will become more assertive in the South China Sea it is unlikely to use force. It fully understands that any military confrontation would have a profound negative impact on its strategic position in the Asia-Pacific and Beijing’s relations with regional states.