Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 09/2009

The United States and the Asia-Pacific Region: National Interests and Strategic Imperatives

James J. Przystup

April 2009

Institute for National Strategic Studies


Notwithstanding the 2008–2009 financial crisis, East Asia today remains the home of the world’s most dynamic economies. In 1990, the region’s share of global gross domestic product (GDP) amounted to 26.5 percent; in 2006, that figure stood at 37.5 percent. In 2006, the GDP growth rate for Asia’s economies averaged 5.1 percent, compared to a world average of 3.9 percent. Driven in large part by China’s economic resurgence and benefiting from an open international trading system, Asia has become an engine of global economic growth. Meanwhile, U.S. trade with the region grew from $300 billion in 1991 to $900 billion in 2006, much of it in higher value-added manufactured goods and services.1 In all likelihood, restructured and revived economies in Asia and the United States will lead the world out of the current global recession. In addition to its longstanding commercial links to the region, the United States maintains treaty alliance relationships with Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand. For over a half century, this bilateral alliance structure has formed the region’s informal security architecture. The alliances remain of critical importance in addressing the hard security challenges of the East Asia region and provide a firm foundation for multilateral efforts to address the nontraditional security issues there.