President George W. Bush made it clear in his inaugural address that the US would rebuild strong political and security relationships with its allies.
Echoing a theme from the second presidential debate, President Bush said that "America remains engaged in the world, by history and by choice, shaping a balance of power that favors freedom ... we will defend our allies and our interests."
This important statement of resolve is going to echo in the halls of the Pentagon, where Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is committed to strengthening the US alliance with Japan, missile defenses for US allies, and engaging in cooperative research projects to improve mutual security.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, in his confirmation hearing on Jan. 17, 2001, as did President Bush, made it clear that the US' alliances in Asia, "particularly Japan," are the bedrock of security in the Asia-Pacific region.
In defining the foreign policy priorities for the Bush Administration, Colin Powell made it clear that China is not a "strategic partner."
This is a significant departure from the policies of the Clinton administration. Powell noted that there are areas where China and the US have common interests, and other areas where China is a potential rival of the US. He emphasized that the US will trade with China, and so will Japan.
China's threats of military force against Taiwan, however, will make some decisions difficult. The US will work hard, through carefully crafted legislation and export regulations, to make sure that trade does not improve China's military capabilities. And the US will expect its friends and allies to be equally careful in their decisions regarding trade with China that involves high technology goods or manufacturing processes with military application. International security related decisions were never simple, even during the cold war.
A group of countries with shared ideals, a belief in democracy, economic freedom, market economies and unfettered trade, agreed to work together to prevent the communist block from imposing its will over their populations.
These counties formed alliances designed to protect each other from aggression.
The threat, then, was obvious, and to prevent the communist bloc from gaining the upper hand in military capabilities, the allies formed an organization designed to provide for prudent national security controls on the trade of certain technologies and equipment that could be used for threatening military purposes.
To a large extent that organization, the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls, or COCOM, as it was known, was reasonably successful. Access to critical defense technologies developed in the free world, for the most part, was denied to the Soviet Union, China, and the Warsaw Pact countries.
Today, however, it is difficult to achieve consensus on global threats to security. Many nations (and even non-state actors that function in the international arena) may develop or export weapons or technologies that are threatening to some nations, but not to others, or upset the delicate security balance in a geographic region. Thus, in the world of global enterprise and global industrial production, it is difficult to restrict the transfer of technology, goods or services on national security grounds.