Sec. of State Rice is on her way to India today as part of her 6-country Asian tour. The first leg of the trip is to India. It will be a good opportunity to grow and deepen the US-Indo relationship. The trip to India takes place before Sec. Rice's trip to China, which could imply that the US is trying to gather up more international support before meeting with the Chinese.
The United States appears to be attempting to contain China while trying to regain military sales that have been going to the Russians and French from the Indians. The WSJ (paid subscription required) reports today:
"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to signal U.S. willingness to sell F-16 fighter jets to both Pakistan and India when she visits the South Asian rivals this week, according to U.S. officials and others with knowledge of the matter.
The high-profile sales would be a major policy shift for the U.S. and a final step toward tacit acceptance of both countries' possession of nuclear weapons. It also could draw charges of a double standard from European countries since the U.S. has been criticizing the European Union's plan to lift its arms embargo on China.
The tentative plans call for the U.S. to sell Pakistan about two dozen of the aircraft, which are made by Lockheed Martin Corp. The Indians, who still are shopping for jets, could buy as many as 125 if they settle on the F-16."
Sec. Rice, in speaking with reporters prior to leaving, was asked several good questions:
"Question: Back to China. How concerned are you with the incredible level of military, increased military spending in China, double-digit growth every year?
Sec. Rice: Well, certainly, the military spending is concerning because it is taking place at a time when China has not -- when the Cross-Straits issue is not still resolved and in which the United States has certain commitments to a peaceful resolution of that Cross-Straits situation.
So, yes, it is concerning. I will say that there are several ways to deal with it. Perhaps the most important is to recognize that the United States has very strong alliances in the region that are alliances that bring stability to that region at a time when the Chinese role is changing.
Now, we don't have any desire to have the alliances or our posture be a posture against China. China can emerge as a constructive force in Asia. China is going to be a major influence in this region, one way or another, because it's big and it's economically growing to be very powerful and it's going to be both a regional and a global player.
The question is: Is it going to be constructive? And therefore, our goal is to enhance the chances for a constructive role for China through engagement with China on security issues like the six-party arrangement, to engage with China when we can on other global issues.
Herein lies US policy towards China. China is a growing power and will be "a major influence in this region [Asia], one way or another" (read for "good or ill"). The US response is to engage China, hope for a peaceful constructive solution to North Korea and for Taiwan, but in the meantime, build and grow "very strong alliances in the region". These alliances between the US and its allies, such as with South Korea (South Korea-US Mutual Defense Treaty), Japan (the US-Japan Security Treaty), and Australia (ANZUS) together represent a partial encircling of Chinese areas of influence.
The US receives a good deal of criticism on being unilateral in action. However, I think it is more fitting to look at US policy as moving its agenda forward with a "coalition of the willing". The US has in place a good deal of alliances with Asian neighbors, and Secretary Rice's visit to Asia will only reinforce our position in the region as we wait patiently for a more democratic China.