Who Can Be the Strategic Partners of the USA in Asia-Pacific?

The United States seeks to increase the number of like-minded strategic allies and partners.
In recent years, Washington has rapidly transformed some of these alliance relationships into strategic partnerships.
The US vision for the Asia-Pacific is a free, open, rules-based order and a regional order committed to democratic principles.


This post is also available in: Türkçe Русский

In the international relations literature, there are important differences between the concepts of strategic alliance and strategic partnership. In an alliance relationship, there may be more interest-policy divergence between the two states, whereas in a strategic partnership, these differences are almost non-existent and there is a great harmony in foreign policy.

The United States of America (USA) is trying to increase the number of like-minded strategic allies and partners. Since 2009, under Barack Obama, Washington has pursued an Asia-Pivot strategy, seeking to increase the number of allies and partners with whom it can expand political, economic and military cooperation in the region.

It can be said that the US’s Asia-Pivot initiative was influenced by China’s economic rise, its and Russia’s emphasis on trade in local currencies, and ultimately their “tendency to create an alternative center of power in the world”. While laying the foundations of a multipolar world, the US has focused on expanding its cooperation with Asia-Pacific countries that share similar views with it.

As a result, the last 10-15 years have witnessed a significant increase in the number of bilateral, trilateral and quadrilateral dialogue-cooperation formations among like-minded actors in the Asia-Pacific. In addition, security cooperation agreements, mutual access agreements, port-base visits and military exercises have been on the rise.

The most well-known US-led formations are the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) with India, Japan and Australia, which was established in 2007, and the AUKUS, which was established in 2021 with the UK and Australia. Apart from these, it can be said that the Five Eyes Alliance, which was established during the Second World War to share intelligence among the Anglo-Saxon powers, has been playing an increasingly critical role in recent years.

The US vision for the Asia-Pacific is a free, open, rules-based order and a regional order committed to democratic principles. In fact, this goal is tantamount to the idea of creating an Asia-Pacific geopolitical order that will support the existing American hegemony in the global arena. It is therefore not easy to find actors in the region who share this vision.

To put it from the very beginning, the Anglo-Saxon states are the actors that stand closest to the US interests in the Asia-Pacific. In this regard, we should keep the UK in a different position. Because London has its own vision of global empire and can compete with Washington when necessary. Therefore, the Anglo-Saxon countries that cooperate or have the potential to cooperate with the US in the Asia-Pacific in terms of strategic partnership are basically Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Of these, Australia can be characterized as one of the US’s major strategic partners in the region, as it is a member of both QUAD, the ICJUS, and the Five Eyes Alliance. New Zealand, despite having an anti-nuclear policy, is considering joining the second pillar of the ICJUS, which envisages technology sharing. There is also talk that Canada may also join the second pillar of the NPT. Of the three Anglo-Saxon countries, New Zealand and Canada are more cautious in pursuing US regional interests.

In the Asia-Pacific, the US has started to expand its cooperation with the European countries Germany and France. The contribution of European actors, especially in the military field and intelligence sharing, is important. In this context, it is known that the US invited France to the Five Eyes Alliance. Germany has also been interested in joining the “Five Eyes” alliance for many years. As of 2018, an intelligence network initiative called “Five Eyes Plus 3” has also been launched with France, Germany and Japan. “Five Eyes Plus” cooperates with France, Japan and South Korea. Ultimately, Germany and France are among the US strategic allies in the region.  

At this point, it should be emphasized that Japan and the Philippines are in a critical position due to their defense-security agreements with the United States in the early 1950s. However, these agreements would not fully elevate them to the level of strategic partners. These partnerships can also emerge as a result of different governments becoming overly close to other states from time to time. For example, in the Philippines, during the Rodrigo Duterte era (2016-2022), US-Philippines relations were volatile and it would not be correct to speak of a strategic partnership. However, we can argue that under Ferdinand Marcos Jr. the Philippines turned towards cooperation with the United States that could reach the level of a strategic partnership due to increasing regional security concerns.

The rapid change in foreign policy after the change of government in the Philippines has been similar in South Korea. Indeed, under the Yon Suk-yol administration, which won the presidential elections in March 2022, Washington-Seoul relations have gradually improved and continue to improve. However, despite the Yoon government’s close cooperation with Washington, doubts remain as to the exact foreign policy course it will pursue. Seoul is also seeking to increase its political contacts with Beijing. In this sense, South Korea is planning to host the China-Japan-South Korea trilateral summit in late May. In this sense, South Korea is an important regional ally of the United States, but it may not reach the level of partnership.

In addition, India can only have a strategic alliance with the United States as it continues to develop its historical ties with Russia. Moreover, New Delhi has long been at odds with Beijing over its land borders. India’s approach to China is therefore quite different from US interests in the Asia-Pacific. In conclusion, we can argue that the US has limited strategic partners in the region, but a significant increase in the number of allies. More importantly, Washington has been rapidly transforming some of these alliance relations into strategic partnerships in recent years.

Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk Tamer graduated from Sakarya University, Department of International Relations in 2014. In the same year, he started his master's degree at Gazi University, Department of Middle Eastern and African Studies. In 2016, Tamer completed his master's degree with his thesis titled "Iran's Iraq Policy after 1990", started working as a Research Assistant at ANKASAM in 2017 and was accepted to Gazi University International Relations PhD Program in the same year. Tamer, whose areas of specialization are Iran, Sects, Sufism, Mahdism, Identity Politics and Asia-Pacific and who speaks English fluently, completed his PhD education at Gazi University in 2022 with his thesis titled "Identity Construction Process and Mahdism in the Islamic Republic of Iran within the Framework of Social Constructionism Theory and Securitization Approach". He is currently working as an Asia-Pacific Specialist at ANKASAM.

Similar Posts