"It would be wrong to describe it yet as a classic arms race, that is, somebody develops a capacity in relation to someone else's capacity," he says of China and Japan's military back-and-forth. "The acquisition of maritime powers is a product of a phase of development, rather than simply a product of an anxiety of one's neighbors."
China's growing expenditures on its military are consistent with any country that wants to project more of a global influence, he says. The region looks to the U.S. to help maintain the balance that allows all countries, powerful and less powerful, to "pursue their interests without a sense of pressure or problem."
"To ensure it stays that way, it's critical the U.S. plays a role," he says. "The fact that the U.S. engages in the region is important to most of the wealthy powers."
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Paul D. Shinkman is a national security reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at email@example.com.