THE SECURITY ENVIRONMENT In East Asia underwent dramatic changes in the latter half of the 1970s. The frailty of detente became apparent as Soviet intransigence in the peripheries of Africa, the Middle East, and the Eurasian continent raised questions about the feasibility of peaceful coexistence between the two superpowers and about the true nature of Soviet intentions. The Sino-American rapprochement too was cut short in its infancy. Although Richard Nixon's and Henry Kissinger's initiatives in the early 1970s would eventually bear fruit in the form of normalized relations by the end of the decade, the process was a slow and painful one, and the by-product, a reservoir of heightened mistrust and frustration on the parts of both Washington and Beijing. The issue of Taiwan, in particular, posed the main obstacle, deflating the hopes and. expectations that accompanied the Shanghai communiqué in 1972.
The most wrenching event for the United States in these years was, of course, the war in Vietnam. The unceremonious fall of Saigon in the spring of 1975 both crushed the myth of American invincibility in the minds of Asian allies and raised intense American questioning of the costs, both moral and substantive, of America's commitments abroad. For Japan and Korea the post-Vietnam security environment was one of considerable uncertainty. The demise of detente engendered a return of unmitigated cold-war tensions, to the region. Coupled with this was a demoralized and domestically torn United States, which was at best unenthusiastic with its continued overextension in the region. To the concern of many Asian leaders this American ambivalence translated into a new policy under Jimmy Carter for complete U.S. disengagement from the Korean peninsula.