27 September 2016
The recent ASEAN Summit in Laos marked one of the final multilateral meetings U.S. President Obama will have with ASEAN leaders as his administration comes to a close in January next year. During this trip, Obama sought to reassure ASEAN countries of continued U.S. commitment to rebalancing in the region.
Nevertheless, it remains to be seen how the U.S. rebalance will turn out under the next president. This is a cause of concern for ASEAN, as U.S. rebalancing in the Asia-Pacific region has served as insurance for most ASEAN countries to enhance their security in the face of an increasingly assertive China. If the new U.S. president shifts his or her foreign policy focus away from Southeast Asia, the rebalance could be diminished to some extent.
In spite of such uncertainties, it is vital that ASEAN maintain its centrality and unity, no matter which candidate wins November’s U.S. presidential election. This would ensure that management of regional affairs in Southeast Asia would still be firmly within the ambit of ASEAN and not subject to vulnerabilities because of changes in future U.S. foreign policy.
… David Han is a Research Analyst with the Malaysia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 28/09/2016