INTERVIEW/ Kurt Campbell: China should think carefully about provoking South China Sea tensions


Despite difficult issues facing the United States in East Asia, the former top U.S. diplomat for Asian affairs remains confident that America can, and will, continue to lead in the region.

However, Kurt Campbell, the former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, expressed concern regarding a setback in Congress on trade policy. He said failure to grant Trade Promotion Authority to President Barack Obama would do great damage to long-term American strategic interests.

In an interview with The Asahi Shimbun at his Washington, D.C., office, Campbell discussed a range of topics from Chinese land reclamation in the South China Sea to the relocation of a U.S. air base in Okinawa Prefecture.

On the issue of the South China Sea, Campbell emphasized U.S. interests in freedom of navigation, and cautioned China to consider carefully how its actions could affect relations with its neighbors.

“China is beginning to understand, and realize, what the United States has known for a long period of time, that when big powers do things, they get more attention than when smaller powers do,” he said.

Regarding the new China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, in which the United States and Japan will not participate, he said since both are major countries committed to development and global standards, they should find ways to shape this institution.

Campbell also said that in his view, security reforms in Japan strengthen deterrence. He argued that closer alliance cooperation with the United States, rather than increasing the possibility that Japan would be drawn into a conflict, would reduce the overall risks of hostilities occurring in the region.

Newly elected Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga is strongly opposed to the planned relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from densely populated Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago, also in Okinawa Prefecture.

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