US needs to 'return' in a constructive way

08:30, September 26, 2010      

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After ending combat operations in Iraq, the US seems to be "returning to Asia" in a hasty manner. When US President Barack Obama hosted the second US-ASEAN summit in New York Friday, he urged ASEAN leaders to issue a joint statement in which the importance of "maritime security, unimpeded commerce and freedom of navigation" in Southeast Asia was reaffirmed.

The latest joint communiqué follows the hard-line stance stated by Hillary Clinton in Vietnam two months ago, despite the relatively moderate tone this time. The subtext from the US is unambiguous: China is a threat to Southeast Asia.

The US emphasis on freedom of trade and navigation appears to be a pseudo-proposition.

While the US airdropped enormous resources to Iraq and Afghanistan over the past years, China and ASEAN countries witnessed rapid growth and mutual free trade. More-over, promises of friendly partnerships and peaceful resolutions of disputes were written into the Declaration of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea in 2002.

The US is seeking to "return to Asia" by alienating ASEAN countries from China and creating chaos in the region. This obvious US strategy is hardly feasible. A main focus of ASEAN countries is to alleviate poverty and boost economic growth. Some ASEAN countries do enjoy the balance the US brings to the region, but perhaps none of them would like to see the US go overboard. These ASEAN countries cannot afford to miss the opportunity of taking part and prospering during China's economic rise.

2010 will not witness the burgeoning of a US-ASEAN alliance that aims at tackling China. The US should not overestimate ASEAN countries' strategic anxiety and fear of China, because these countries' desire to sustain economic cooperation with China is far stronger than this alleged anxiety and fear.

In the wake of World War II, the US built its world influence mainly through bringing economic prosperity to its allies and former enemies.

However, in recent years, it turned to strategic alienation and military inference, due to its faded economic and political capability.

Take Haiti, Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems that in some parts of the world, the more the US is engaged, the more blurred their future became.

During Friday's summit, Obama declared the intention of the US to play a leadership role in Southeast Asia.

The US should understand that its "return to Asia" has to bring about prosperity for this region. It should play a constructive role that promotes peaceful relationships among countries in this region, and tries to reduce rather than stir up disputes among these countries. This is the only way for the US to build credit and sustain its interests in Asia.

Source: Global Times


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