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Next Powers to Play in Pacific Area

January 24, 1988| These are excerpts from an interview with former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger conducted by Bryan Boswell, Washington correspondent of The Australian. and

Boswell: How do you see the Pacific region developing economically, militarily and politically into the 21st Century?

Kissinger: I believe that the end of the century is going to see major changes in the structure of international relations as they developed after the end of World War II. One of the ironies of the current situation is that the two superpowers are conducting international affairs as if they were the principal relevant factors when, in fact, over the next decade new power centers will emerge that will make the relative position of the two superpowers less significant.

This has particular importance for the Pacific. By the turn of the century Japan will be a significant military power, whether their defense budget takes 2% of gross national product, the current projection, or 3%, as some people are urging them to do. Japan, by then, may also be the predominant financial power in the world.

Second, to say China will either succeed or fail is a platitude, but either event will create dramatic consequences. I believe China's reforms will succeed and the Chinese, in my experience, are careful analysts of international affairs. It is inconceivable to me that a growth of Chinese strength will not be translated into a growth of Chinese influence.

The Soviet Union is at a minimum creating an auxiliary center of its priorities in Asia. At the same time India is becoming the predominant military country in its region and has shown no hesitation to use its power to achieve its national interests. I think India's long-range interest in the Indian Ocean is very similar to the U.S. interest. That is to say they will not want the Soviet Union--or any other major power--to dominate the Indian Ocean, and they will not want a great power to be dominating the Persian Gulf.

I expect Indian influence to radiate in the Indian Ocean and down to Singapore, and Southeast Asia will become sort of a four-power contest among China, India, the Soviet Union and Japan.

Now what will be the U.S. role in all of this? I think the United States will be needed in that area as a balancer of the equilibrium, at a minimum, and I suppose the more important question is can we do it? Do we know how to do it?

Balance-of-power is a dirty word in America, and we have always prided ourselves on conducting international affairs on a more elevated plane.

The Nixon-Kissinger approach to foreign policy wound up getting attacked by both liberals and conservatives because it was too power-oriented for liberals and too relativistic for conservatives. We believed in balance-of-power but we were hostile to crusades. Eventually limitation of resources will oblige America to come to that as a nation. Peace requires hegemony or balance of power.

I think we have to fill the gap in the Pacific. The German philosopher (Immanuel) Kant wrote an essay, "Perpetual Peace," in which he said world peace will eventually come about either through the moral and intellectual insight of statesmen or through a series of catastrophes of such magnitude that leaves no choice.

I think the next President will have a terrible time. Both in the foreign and domestic fields. He will find more and more opposition in Latin America based on the debt problem; he will face more counterweights to American power in Asia; he will face a Europe that no longer unquestioningly accepts American leadership, and he will find that we don't have the resources to overwhelm all the big problems as we used to. Right now we are at the end of an Administration with difficult choices. We face the dilemma that we either raise interest rates or resort to inflation. If we raise interest rates we will have a recession. If we don't raise interest rates we will have inflation. All that will be a very painful process at home.

Then, overseas, if you look at the Asian countries, they really conduct foreign policy the way the Europeans did in the 17th and 18th Centuries. The idea that you should not translate power into influence is foreign to them, and the moralistic concerns of the West are to many of them an opportunity rather than a guide to action.

I don't say this critically because in the sweep of human history, this is the way foreign policy has been conducted 95% of the time. So some of the Western approaches of the 20th Century are the exception.

I think the Soviets will be increasingly important players in the Pacific. The skill of their policy is that to the degree that they can neutralize nuclear weapons with arms-control negotiations, and to the degree that nuclear weapons neutralize themselves anyway, Soviet ability to project conventional power becomes more relevant.

Q: And this will bring them into conflict with Japan?

A: With Japan, with China. It will be interesting to see the lineup, who will align with whom. I think the Chinese are too smart and thoughtful to join the Soviet Union in an effort that would neutralize us. Because then they would be left alone in Eurasia with the Soviet Union, and I think they have an interest to keep the United States in.

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