One might be tempted to argue that Gary Schmitt’s post from earlier today, “The questions they should have asked Kerry,” is nitpicking, taking a minor excerpt from the hours’ long nomination hearing appearance and blowing it up beyond real importance. Schmitt pointed to Kerry’s off-the-cuff (or not) statement when asked about the pivot to Asia that he was “not convinced an increased military ramp-up is necessary yet,” and further, our new Secretary of State volunteered, it risked the danger that the PRC leadership might “wonder whether the US is trying to (en)circle us.”
Well, there is at least one important source that did not find Kerry’s answer small potatoes—the China Daily. Today’s edition’s lead editorial proclaims: “Kerry rekindles hope.” Why? Because it looks as if Kerry might “rethink” the US “interventionist mindset approach (in Asia)…and pave the way for a major policy change in the region.” According to the CD, the US pivot is behind much of the recent turmoil in the region: “Emboldened by this, some countries in the region have raised tensions over maritime territorial disputes with China in the East and South China seas.”
In finding grounds for “hope,” the editorial points directly to Kerry’s apparent dissent from current US policy in averring that he is “unconvinced the US needs to ramp up its military presence in the Asia Pacific.” And it concludes: “This stance has been interpreted as a positive signal. As a country that claims to have a stake in the region’s peace and development, the US should be fully aware of the impact its rising military presence in the region has on peace and stability.”
Maybe Secretary Kerry should invoke the old senatorial privilege to “revise and extend” his remarks for the record. In any case, Gary Schmitt’s “nitpicking” paid off. We now know for certain how important it is not to take any action, large or small, that would cause the PRC leadership to fear “encirclement.