US–China Relations; China and the US: Regional Naval Presence; Duterte’s ‘Recalibration’; Continuing Challenges in the South China Sea; The North Korean Wild Card; Thailand After King Bhumibol; A Tentative Japan–Russia Rapprochement; Terrorist Returnees to Asia; The Fate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership; Conclusion

A series of important security developments in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region occurred during the final year of then United States president Barack Obama’s administration. These developments are likely to influence both the legacy of the so-called strategic ‘rebalance’, or ‘pivot’, to the Asia-Pacific and the challenges facing President Donald Trump’s administration. These challenges include nuclear and ballistic-missile threats from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), maritime disputes in the East and South China seas, strategic competition in the Indian Ocean and China’s ongoing military modernisation. Moreover, domestic political developments in the Asia-Pacific will present a range of concerns and opportunities that will likely shape US engagement in the region.

Many of these developments cannot be ameliorated by additional US engagement alone. As the Obama administration discovered in its final months, the ‘principled security network’1 contemplated by then-secretary of defense Ashton Carter – integrating old allies and new partners in the Asia-Pacific region – has left Washington’s continued role as a Pacific power dependent on a sustained forward posture, including a muscular naval presence and active diplomacy.

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