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Lee, "Jimmy Carter and the Pacific defense perimeter," 1984

USC dissertation in International Relations.
August 27, 2009
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Sam King-Sum Lee, Ph.D

Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation analyzes the Carter Administration's security policies toward Northeast Asia and the Western Pacific, specifically toward Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the Republic of China, and the effect of those policies on the Pacific defense perimeter.

The Carter Administration's policies were aimed at lessening the defense burden and reducing American forces in Northeast Asia. These policies were not consistent with the requirements of the Pacific defense perimeter, which called for increased commitments.

The viability of the Pacific defense perimeter is evaluated in terms of the effect Carter's policies had upon the security of the Republic of Korea and the Republic of China, which in turn affected the security of Japan.

The proposed withdrawal of United States ground forces from Korea is discussed as well as the normalization of relations with the People's Republic of China and the termination of the Mutual Security Treaty with the Republic of China. The Carter Administration's policy of utilizing the People's Republic of China as a strategic counterweight to the Soviet Union is explored. President Carter's reliance on China to help counter the Soviet threat had no immediate adverse effects, but the policy of employing a potential threat may have contributed toward the long term weakening of the defense perimeter.

President Carter continued the policy of previous administrations of having Japan increase its defense spending modestly. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the Carter Administration pressured Japan to increase its defense spending substantially. The issue of Japan's share of the defense perimeter is investigated.

This dissertation shows how Congressional initiatives mitigated the effects that Carter Administration policies had on the Pacific defense perimeter. Congressional and military opposition as well as new intelligence reports convinced President Carter that the Korean withdrawal should be held in abeyance. Congress moved to re-extend security guarantees to the Republic of China by incorporating a security guarantee clause in the Taiwan Relations Act. Congressional actions served to reassure the viability of the Pacific defense perimeter.

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