The “Pacific pivot” of the United States is nothing new. At the same time, it doesn’t really exist. And yet, even though it doesn’t exist, this pivot is partly responsible for the escalation of tensions in and around the Korean peninsula.
How can all three of these statements be simultaneously true? Such are the paradoxes of the U.S. shift in attention toward the Pacific Rim.
The Obama administration made a big splash with its announcement of a rebalancing of U.S. foreign policy. But it is in fact something that the Clinton administration also boasted about back in the 1990s. In 1993, Bill Clinton hosted the Leaders Summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Seattle as part of his own administration’s shift toward the Pacific. With APEC and other initiatives, the United States wanted to cash in on the enormous economic growth taking place in a region where, as Clinton put it, countries have “gone from being dominoes to dynamos.”