This week’s Economist carries a special report on China, I thought this map to be quite interesting. It details US troop deployments in countries within China’s reach.
In Central Asia, the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO), a security forum comprising four Central Asian states plus China and Russia, is increasingly challenging America’s military presence in the region. In July the SCO, prompted by China and Russia, demanded a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from member states. In August, China and Russia staged their first joint military manoeuvres since the cold war. “Peace Mission 2005”, billed as a counter-terrorist exercise, looked far more like preparation for a Chinese assault on Taiwan.
On the Korean peninsula, China and America have been drawn together by a common desire to prevent tensions over North Korea’s nuclear programmes from turning into a full-blown crisis. America has praised China’s role in hosting talks aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its projects. But China has also deftly used the process to boost its ties with South Korea, a participant in the talks whose conciliatory approach to the north is often closer to China’s than America’s.
Despite tensions between South Korea and America over how to handle North Korea, their defence relationship remains solid for now. But China has an eye on the longer term when, if relations between the two Koreas improve sufficiently, greater uncertainty will arise about the need for American bases in the south.