By Dzirhan Mahadzir, freelance defence journalist based in Malaysia, and Malaysia correspondent for Janes Defence Weekly. Joshua Kurlantzick has a post up on Asia Unbound about a Southeast Asian naval arms race. He argues that countries in the region are…
US President Barack Obama will host eight of the ten leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)[i] in New York on Friday, September 24, 2010 at the 2nd US ASEAN Summit. The meeting underlines renewed American policy energy being invested in Southeast Asia. Headlines from the discussion should focus on three areas …
“Exploring the implications of holding a Summit without SBY or postponing the Summit should be a sobering proposition to all the leaders involved. Here’s to everyone doing what is needed to make the meeting work. It’s gut check time for the US ASEAN relationship as we approach September 24 in New York.”
“the past 2 months have been the most exciting in Taiwan’s economic history since the 1950s – but that is the case. Taiwan is on a roll … “
The stakes are high in New York, and the fact the 2nd US ASEAN Summit is taking place is significant. It is a strong signal that the US is finding its way to more comprehensive engagement in Asia and following through on its commitments to try to build an enduring Asia strategy using ASEAN as a foundation.
The gap in US strategy for intensifying its engagement in Southeast Asia is clearly trade. While the United States is starting to connect the dots diplomatically and on security architecture, our trade professionals, some of the most hard-core, experienced Southeast Asia hands in the Administration, are essentially benched as they wait for political and policy decisions to put the US trade leadership back into the game.
Asia’s military landscape is shifting, and nowhere more so than in maritime Southeast Asia. This week saw another major development: the inaugural U.S.-Vietnam defense policy dialogue in Hanoi.
Tuesday’s meeting builds on triennial exchanges of defense ministers begun in 2000 and marks a definite turning point in bilateral relations. Since 2008, the two countries have conducted an annual Political, Security and Defense Dialogue under the auspices of the U.S. State Department and Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Now they have developed a high-level channel for direct military-to-military discussions under their respective defense department.
The 2nd US ASEAN Summit needs to be held in Washington, DC. When inviting ten foreign leaders from a strategically vital region to meet the President of the United States, symbolism and form are vitally important. The Washington choice sends the right messages at the right time.
The US Ambassadors to the ASEAN countries rotate every three years or so. For the most part, with the exception of Singapore, they tend to be experienced career foreign service officers. A new class is making its way into the region. They a relatively young group with strong resumes and solid experience.
Singapore’s policy toward Taiwan is an example of the tightrope that Southeast Asian countries need to walk in the new era of an increasingly powerful China asserting itself – particularly in relation to its “core interests” including Tibet, Taiwan and (the newest addition to the “core”) the South China Sea.