Signals to Asia in Clinton’s Speech

For some reason, my thoughts keep coming back to this brief passage from Hillary Clinton’s speech yesterday, following her discussion of NATO:

At the same time, we are working with our key treaty allies Japan andKorea, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines and other partners tostrengthen our bilateral relationships as well as trans-Pacificinstitutions. We are both a trans-Atlantic and a trans-Pacific nation.

It’s little more than a boilerplate reiteration of a geopolitical reality that dates back to the turn of the 20th century. But it comes at a time when many of our Asian allies have begun to wonder whether our military posture for the 21st century will leave them on their own to deal with China’s growing regional influence. By anchoring our trans-Pacific posture in our very identity, the passage precludes choice in the question of U.S. intentions in Asia. We’re there to stay, it seems to suggest, because it’s a part of who we are.

The fact that the speech was scheduled the day before Clinton left for a visit to India, a country that represents in many ways a hedge against China’s rise, strikes me as significant as well.

It could be an overly ambitious stretch on my part in the tea-leaf reading department. But it could also be a case of signaling intentions to antsy friends.