Asian pagentry. . .and policy
BEYOND the pagentry of the Peking visit itself, the Reagan administration still must face fundamental policy decisions for the Asian egion. Basically, the administration still hasn't a Pacific basin policy, analysts contend. It has yet to decide between a ''Pacific Rim'' policy or a ''land mass'' policy, in the analysts' jargon.
Some argue that a rim approach would be enough -- linking strategic and commercial bonds with Japan, Korea, and Taiwan -- to have a solid defence policy against Soviet expansion in the Pacific. Others, and the Chinese themselves, argue that China has the most significant strategic position as a land-mass power in Asia -- even as China says it does not want to play the strategic card. Within the administration, a new undersecretary of state, regarded as an Asianist, is being brought in to replace the outgoing undersecretary, known as a Europeanist. Some suggest in this that Secretary of State George Shultz is anticipating a new emphasis on the region.
Of course, if Mr. Reagan is reelected, the tenure of Mr. Shultz and others in the State Department and on the National Security Council must be considered an open question. Appointments mow are too slim a limb for the projection of policy decisions.
Mr. Reagan has visit South Korea and Japan. After Reagan's visit to Tokyo, to the tune of much mutual domestic politicking for the two country's leaders, Mr. Nakasone began to sink into the domestic political terrain in Japan. The trip to South Korea was useful -- but the two Koreas still labor, through their hostility, toward some joint actions, as in Olympics competition.
The United States has not really had an Asian policy since Vietnam. It has only one armed division, in South Korea. The Pacific Fleet is stretched thin. Mr. Shultz and others are talking about China as a regional actor in the Asian balance of power.Mr. Reagan the other day came close to calling China an ally. But the internal administration debate is far from over. And so is the November election.
Many Asian states feel bypassed by the administration -- notably the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand, again left off the President's Pacific itinerary. Future diplomacy must better embrace them.
As in the Middle East and Central America, the Reagan Asian outlook reflects a tension. The administration seems cought between a vision of revived US strategic power and the historical, cultural, and military ealities of the region it would influence.
If nothing else, the President's trip to China can help the administration better understand what an effective Asian policy should and should not include.