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Fumio Ota

【#410】A bit Concern on Senior Officials of Trump Administration

Fumio Ota / 2016.12.07 (Wed)

December 5, 2016

     U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has nominated retired Marine Corps General James N. Mattis as defense secretary. People who know Mattis well describe him as a “complete scholar-warrior,” indicating that he is a general who is not only active but also intelligent. However, Mattis has served as commander of the U.S. Central Command, the Joint Forces Command and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Allied Command Transformation, and his Asia-Pacific experiences are limited to his stay in Okinawa as a lieutenant.
     Retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who has been selected as national security adviser to the incoming president, switched his allegiance from the Democratic Party to the Trump camp after the Obama administration ignored his warning about the jihadist group Islamic State’s expansion into Iraq when he served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He and his family had been supporting the Democratic Party. After his retirement, Flynn visited Russia to develop personal connections. He has not taken any major posts in the Asia-Pacific.
     Mike Pompeo, nominated as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is a graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point. All of the three nominees are ground-warfare oriented and have had little experience in the Asia-Pacific region.

Fate of an anti-China AirSea Battle
     Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cites Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and non-state radical groups as potential competitors to the United States in that order in the latest edition of the Joint Forces Quarterly.
     A matter of concern from the Japanese standpoint is how the AirSea Battle concept launched as an anti-China battle doctrine in February 2010 would be treated in the future. Another matter of concern is that the United States could shift its national security priority to the Middle East or Russia.
     The Defense Department set up the AirSea Battle Office in May 2013 but closed it in 2015 by modifying the AirSea Battle concept as the Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC) subject to control by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, J-7.
     Flynn, hailing from the Army, has been critical of the AirSea Battle concept led by the Navy and Air Force. The Army, Marine Corps and Special Operations Command had called for establishing a Joint Office of Strategic Landpower to counter the AirSea Battle Office.

U.S. interests in Asia could decline
     The Unites States shifted the focus of attention regarding national security to the Middle East since 9/11 allowing China to expand its influences in East Asia. Learning lessons from the shift, the United States adopted the Asia rebalancing policy in late 2011. Could the United States shift the focus of attention to the Middle East again? How would Japan respond to a U.S. request for due Japanese contributions to security in the Middle East? I am also concerned that senior national security officials for the incoming administration do not include anyone who could materialize Trump’s plan for 350-ship Navy.
     If the United States secedes from the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement in the economic area and weakens its Asia rebalancing policy in the security area, wouldn’t it only please China? I hope this will end up as a needless fear.

Fumio Ota is a JINF Planning Committee Member and retired Vice Admiral of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force.