Taiwan’s strategic confusion

Taiwan US Trade

Author: Wen-Ti Sung, ANU

Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou’s mantra of ‘no unification, no independence, and no use of force’ is coming under increasing strain.

This pressure is due to a number of factors — Washington’s benign neglect of Taiwan, Beijing’s ever-stronger leverage over Taipei, and Taiwan’s own strategic confusion. Read more…

Obama’s visit to Indonesia and Australia and the TPP

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pose for a photo during a reception at the Metropolitan Museum in New York with Dr. N. Hassan Wirajuda, Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs  and his wife, Mrs. Wirajuda, on Wednesday, September 23, 2009. (Photo: Lawrence Jackson/White House)

Author: Bernard K. Gordon, University of New Hampshire

President Obama’s twice-deferred trip to Indonesia is now scheduled for the week after next, and will be combined with a visit to Australia. In the familiar phrase, these visits come at the ‘best of times and the worst of times.’ It is the best of times because US relations with both Jakarta and Canberra have never been better. In 2008, President Yudhoyono announced his Comprehensive Partnership with the US‘ — a sea-change for Jakarta—and it will be further formalised and intensified during Obama’s three-day visit.

The goal will be both to ‘catch up’ in sectors that have been relatively neglected in recent years, and to open up new fields for Indonesia-US cooperation. Read more…

President Obama, the TPP and U.S. leadership in Asia

Sultan of Brunei Hasanol Bolkiah (1st L), Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (2nd L), Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (3rd L), Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (4 th L) Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama (C), Indonesian President (4th R), US President Barack Obama (3R), Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Chinese President Hu Jintao pose during a photo at in Singapore on November 14, 2009, during the APEC Summit. (Photo: Getty Images)

Author: Claude Barfield and Philip I. Levy, AEI

After prolonged ambivalence about trade, President Obama finally found an agreement he could embrace – the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But what is the object of the President’s new found passion? Why has the South Pacific caught his fancy when pending agreements in Latin America and Northeast Asia could not? And will this amount to anything more than the Administration’s rather empty promises to wrap up the Doha Round of WTO global trade talks?

In fact, the TPP is potentially a significant addition to U.S. trade policy. It could be a model for trade liberalisation and a means to address long-standing U.S. interests in Asia. Read more…

North Korea – the US still caught between speaking with the enemy and listening to allies

U.S. special envoy to North Korea Stephen Bosworth (L) and South Korean Unification Minister Hyun In-taek (photo: Reuters)

Author: Jonas Parello-Plesner

Barack Obama: ‘America … has to talk with its enemies.’ ‘[It] requires allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other’.

North Korea is a litmus test for Obama’s foreign policy tenets. On the one hand, Obama promised to speak with the enemy to bring new results in foreign policy. Read more…

Obama and East Asia: No Room for Complacency

President Obama at the 1st U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (Photo: Whitehouse.gov/Chuck Kennedy)

Author: Gerald Curtis, Columbia University

The Obama administration’s foreign policy in East Asia has been characterized more by continuity than by change, building on policies of previous administrations that have served U.S. interests well. But there is a danger that, forced by events to focus attention on the world’s hot spots, continuity will shade into complacency, leaving the administration to constantly try to catch up with developments in an East Asia that is rapidly changing.

Managing trilateral relations among the U.S., China, and Japan requires a multi-level approach. Each of these countries is in a transformative period that is changing the dynamics of their interaction. Bilateral relationships will remain central. It is unrealistic and unwise, however, to think of the U.S.-China bilateral relationship as comprising a G-2 for dealing with regional and global issues. The notion of a G-2 exaggerates China’s strengths. It is not in the interests of the U.S. to encourage China to believe that it has more power to influence global affairs than it actually possesses. Being the largest overseas purchaser of U.S. Treasury notes gives China considerable leverage in relations with the U.S. But one should not underestimate the mutual hostage quality that results from China being the largest holder of U.S. bonds, which has a kind of economic Mutually Assured Destruction character to it.

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US gives a long overdue nod to Indonesia

Hillary Clinton meets with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

Author: Ann Marie Murphy, Whitehead School of Diplomacy, Columbia University

Hillary Clinton deserves credit for making Indonesia the second country she visited as Secretary of State. Indonesia may be the world’s fourth most populous country, third largest democracy, and home to the world’s largest community of Muslims, but it is also the most important country Americans know virtually nothing about. Clinton’s visit sends an early signal to Jakarta that Washington recognizes Indonesia’s growing international clout and builds a firm foundation for future cooperation.

Clinton’s trip had multiple goals: to highlight the example Indonesia’s transition to democracy sets for the broader Muslim world; to reinforce US interest in Southeast Asia by visiting the Secretariat of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and to lay the foundation for a strategic partnership with Indonesia. Indonesian officials welcomed US attention to their country and recognition of its achievements over the past decade.

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Showing up in Asia

US Secretary of State meets with Japan's Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone (AP Photo/Tomohiro Ohsumi)

Author: Nina Hachigian, Center for American Progress

Less than a month into the new Obama administration and the Secretary of State was on the ground in Asia.

Add that to the growing list of acts, symbolic and real, that signal a major departure from the last eight years of American policymaking.

Already, ‘green jobs’ are actually being created, not just debated as a concept, and the Secretary of Energy is a Nobel Prize winning scientist who speaks forcefully about the devastating potential of climate change. Women now enjoy broader rights to sue over unequal pay, millions more American children have access to health insurance, two additional brigades are on their way to Afghanistan and the CIA can no longer torture detainees.

Asia policy is unlikely to undergo as radical a change. But the fact that Secretary Clinton was there on her very first overseas trip when Condolezza Rice didn’t even regularly attend ASEAN summits, certainly shows a different kind of appreciation for the enormous importance of the region to the US.

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