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Clinton trip highlights weak points of US return to Asia

By Liu Zongyi (Global Times)

08:11, July 17, 2012

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a trip encircling China recently. From Japan to Mongolia then to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, Clinton mainly focused on three things: backing Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines in disputes with China over maritime territorial sovereignty, balancing China's economic influence in Asia by enhancing trade and economic ties with Southeast Asian countries, and promoting support for democracy and human rights as the core of US Asian strategy while attacking China's development model.

Her every topic targeted China by insinuation. It seems the US is tightening its encirclement on China, but on the other hand, we can see the weakness of the US "back to Asia" strategy.

The Obama administration's "back to Asia" strategy covers political and military fields as well as trade and economy. But the strategy seemingly is gradually losing its edge.

From the military perspective, in the recent years, the US has enhanced its deployment in the Asia-Pacific region and interfered in territorial disputes between China and relevant countries. The South China Sea disputes and the Diaoyu Islands dispute have been intensified as the US wedges in. But the US aims at checking China by taking advantages of these disputes rather than directly confronting China. Getting involved in an armed conflict with China is the least desirable option.

But things won't happen as the US wants. Countries like the Philippines and Vietnam attempt to grab islands and waters which don't belong to them by riding the back of the tiger. They hope to get massive military assistance from the US, which the US can't afford to provide.

India and Japan have their own strategic considerations. The US sees India, the biggest democracy in the world, as a mainstay of its Asia-Pacific strategy and a chess piece to balance China. However, India has clearly demonstrated that its policy approach toward China should be a balance of competition and cooperation, which greatly frustrates the US.

On the Diaoyu Islands issue, the US claims the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan is applicable to the Diaoyu Islands. But it also states it won't adopt any stand in the dispute. The US takes an ambiguous attitude and hopes to maintain the tension between China and Japan. Meanwhile, it worries that extreme right-wing Japanese politicians might unscrupulously trigger an armed conflict.

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