US officials are careful in public not to describe China as a threat. They argue that Washington’s hefty defense investment in post-World War II Asia has benefited China by allowing it to concentrate on domestic growth instead of external threats.
“The interest by Pacific Command and the interest from the US is that this be a secure and stable and prosperous region of the world,” Willard said.
While the focus on Asia enjoys broad support in Washington, some liberal members of Obama’s Democratic Party have called for greater cuts by the Pentagon.
Four US House of Representatives Democrats — Barney Frank, Rush Holt, Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey — saw no need to expand to Australia and called for savings by closing the unpopular Futenma base in Okinawa that has long plagued ties with Japan.
“It is time to bring our defense spending in line with the actual threats we face, and invest the savings in nation-building at home,” they wrote in a letter to Obama.